When was the last time one of our nations said a very public “No” to the US? The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which was initiated in 2000 under President Clinton, grants the exports of over 7,000 products, from nearly forty Sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to the US market. The Act has recently been renewed until 2025.
However South Africa, who according to the US Department of Commerce is Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest exporter to the US with over $8bn (£5bn) worth of sales, could find itself off the guest list.
The key issue revolves around the Zuma administration’s reservations about the quality of US meat exports to the nation. A particular bugbear is the suspicion that the US exporters are purposefully shipping poor quality meat, that could not pass the required hygiene benchmark for US domestic consumption. Consequently, South Africa demanded a bilateral agreement on sanitary standards before allowing imports of US chicken, pork and beef.
The US responded by imposing a January deadline for unfettered access, or face AGOA suspension. But South Africa stood firm. Eventually, the White House blinked and an agreement was reached.
However, in full knowledge that the neighbourhood was taking notes, President Obama has gone on the offensive, and has given South Africa until 15 March 2016, to allow US meat imports, or find itself removed from the list of AGOA-eligible nations.
President Zuma is thinking about it.