SOUTH AFRICA: South Africa and the United States have agreed on health and safety standards of US meat exports, Pretoria announced Thursday, ending a deadlock that put at risk a key preferential trade arrangement.
In November, US President Barack Obama threatened to eject South Africa from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), citing continued barriers to US imports and setting a December 31 deadline.
That deadline passed without resolution, but intense negotiations resolved the impasse over the last week, South African Trade Minister Rob Davies said at a press conference Thursday.
"All negotiations have been concluded and all outstanding documents have been signed by both parties," he said.
"We expect South Africa can now participate in AGOA without any interruptions to trade flows."
During months of negotiations, South Africa last year agreed to a 65,000-tonne quota of US chicken imports and also lifted a ban on US beef imports in place following outbreaks of mad cow disease.
But concerns over salmonella levels in US chickens had remained a sticking point in discussions.
AGOA was created in 2000 to help boost exports from African countries deemed to be democratic and applying good economic governance.
If South Africa had been thrown out of AGOA, farmers faced substantial losses in export revenue, compounding problems for the slowing economy.
In 2013, the country shipped $253 million worth of agricultural products to theUnited States.
US Trade Representative Michael Froman hailed the deal as a "positive outcome for both our countries".
"For South Africa, our agreement will reserve a portion of the new trade in poultry for historically disadvantaged importers, thus providing new business opportunities," he said in a statement.
"It will also allow "South African consumers the opportunity to enjoy high quality American poultry, pork and beef."