U.S Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) have issued a joint letter to South African President, Jacob Zuma. This letter warns President Zuma that South Africa’s continued refusal to eliminate unfair duties on American poultry could threaten its continued eligibility for trade benefits available under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). AGOA is up for Congressional reauthorization in 2015.
From the letter:
The antidumping duties South Africa has levied on U.S. poultry have been in place for fourteen years, effectively blocking our companies from accessing your market…We understand that our trade officials recently discussed the ongoing negotiations regarding poultry, as well as other market access issues for other U.S. exports to South Africa. We strongly encourage you to pursue solutions expeditiously that guarantee market access for U.S. poultry.
The letter further states:
As you know, Congress is in the process of considering reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)…We urge you to ensure that conversations continue to make progress towards eliminating the antidumping duties on U.S. poultry and that this issue is resolved before Congress takes up AGOA reauthorization, which could be early next year. We will need to reconsider the extension of duty preferences under AGOA for South Africa if this situation is not resolved.”
The full text of this joint letter to President Zuma is available in PDF format here. While Senator Isakson currently serves as the Ranking Member of the International Trade Subcommittee on the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Coons serves as the Chair of the African Affairs Subcommittee on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Both these Subcommittees are expected to have an influence on the reauthorization process of AGOA come 2015.
Additionally, it is important to note the significance of this issue to Georgia. The Georgia Department of Agriculture deems poultry to be Georgia’s largest agricultural commodity. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Georgia produces 24.6 million pounds of chicken and 14 million eggs on an average per day. Moreover, the statewide economic impact of the industry is an estimated $13.5 billion annually. Hence, Senator Isakson’s efforts to ensure more market access for American poultry is of direct significance to Georgia’s economy.