Senator Johnny Isakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and his office issued the following today:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Contact: Amanda Maddox, 202-224-7777
Marie Gordon, 770-661-0999
Isakson Applauds Committee Action to Extend African Growth and Opportunity Act
Committee approves Isakson amendment to hold South Africa accountable for blocking U.S. poultry imports
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today praised committee passage of legislation that will strengthen U.S. trade ties with Africa while protecting American businesses and workers, including the Georgia poultry industry.
The reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, known as AGOA, was approved by the Senate Finance Committee, on which Isakson serves, earlier today. The bill renews AGOA, a trade agreement between the United States and sub-Saharan African countries, for 10 years.
“This legislation will be a boon to both American businesses and workers and African countries,” Isakson said. “Since the original passage of AGOA, we have seen how it has helped sub-Saharan economies grow. This growth is not only good for Africa, but for the United States as well. By strengthening the United States’ role in trade negotiations, the reauthorization of AGOA will open up new markets for American imports. This legislation supports American and African economies: a win-win.”
The legislation included language introduced by Isakson and co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Mark Warner, D-Va., that would put pressure on South Africa to remove unfair limits on American poultry imports. The bipartisan amendment would require the president conduct an out-of-cycle review of South Africa within 30 days of enactment of AGOA.
“I am also glad this legislation contains provisions that would allow the U.S. Trade Representative to be responsive and flexible in its approach to addressing areas of concern by conducting out-of-cycle reviews and when necessary, having the authority to suspend, limit or withdraw benefits for any beneficiary country not in eligibility compliance,” said Isakson. “I believe passionately in AGOA’s value and support its long-term renewal, but I believe it unfair and inappropriate that the country that benefits from the law the most – South Africa – continues to maintain unreasonable tariffs on American poultry.”
View Isakson’s remarks from today’s Finance Committee mark-up discussing his amendment here.
Under the current law, the U.S. government’s only option for punishing an African country that fails to live up to the trade standards outlined in AGOA is the complete termination of benefits for that country. The reauthorization legislation for AGOA passed today gives the United States the option to selectively limit or temporarily suspend benefits without having to terminate them completely. This gives the United States the upper hand in trade negotiations, further protecting American businesses.
Shortly after the enactment of AGOA in 2000, South Africa began imposing antidumping duties on U.S. poultry products, effectively banning 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.
Isakson and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., are the co-chairs of the Senate Chicken Caucus. Both their states have large poultry industries and are big exporters of poultry. The poultry industry annually contributes over $15.1 billion to the Georgia economy, including farmers, processing, and allied industries.
On March 31, 2015, 13 senators wrote to the South African government to express their concern about the lack of progress being made in negotiations between the South African and American poultry industries.