Warner, Kaine voice concern over lack of progress in South African poultry negotiations

congressU.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of bipartisan Senate colleagues in expressing concern about the lack of progress being made in negotiations with South Africa over antidumping duties that have effectively blocked the import of American chicken for the last 15 years.

The senators noted the importance of the nations’ respective trade groups reaching an agreement before the Senate considers reauthorization this spring of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), of which South Africa is the largest beneficiary.

“We are concerned that little progress has been made to reach a solution and that formal negotiations have yet to take place,” the senators wrote in a letter to the government of South Africa. “This work needs to be done urgently, before the African Growth and Opportunity Act is reauthorized. Our support for beneficiary countries’ inclusion in AGOA is, in large part, based on the degree to which they meet their international trade obligations.

“We are concerned that news reports from South African media in recent weeks suggest that SAPA [South African Poultry Association] is drawing a hard line on its most recent offer to the U.S. industry and may not be willing to continue negotiations in good faith.”

Virginia is a leading producer of poultry, with broiler chickens ranking as the Commonwealth’s top agricultural commodity. South Africa represents the largest potential market for U.S. poultry in Africa, but in 2000, it began imposing antidumping duties on U.S. poultry products, effectively slamming the door shut on American chicken imports. The duties are based on a pricing system that values all parts of the chicken the same, which is neither accurate nor commonly accepted.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act has been the cornerstone of the U.S. commercial relationship with Africa since its enactment in 2000, successfully expanding U.S. trade with African countries that show a commitment to good governance and democratic principles. It has improved the trade environment both for U.S. and African businesses, and has spurred significant economic growth.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the letter was also signed by Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Boozman (R-AR), Bob Casey (D-PA), David Perdue (R-GA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Dan Coats (R-IN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

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