Coons to South Africa: Drop chicken trade restrictions

 (AP Photo/Gillian Wong, File)

(AP Photo/Gillian Wong, File)

A pair of U.S. senators say South Africa is wrongfully blocking American chicken imports, causing a riff in trade deals between the two nations.

Senator Chris Coons, D-Delaware, has long championed the mutual benefit of trade between the U.S. and Africa, but when it comes to chicken exports, Coons says South Africa isn’t playing fair. 

Coons joined Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, in a letter to South African trade leaders, accusing them of discriminating against U.S. goods, especially poultry. 

“South Africa levied anti-dumping duties on U.S. poultry 14 years ago, effectively blocking our companies from accessing the market,” the senators wrote. “Despite repeated attempts by the U.S. government and U.S. poultry industry to remove these duties, they have remained in place.”

Since 2000, U.S. trade with Africa has grown, due in part to the African Growth and Opportunity Act. If there aren’t changes to allow U.S. poultry into South Africa, Coons and Isakson said they could make changes to AGOA. “We will need to consider strengthening AGOA to prevent South Africa from benefiting from duty preferences while continuing to discriminate against U.S. goods, specifically poultry.”

India blocks U.S. chicken too

Last October, a World Trade Organization ruling gave hope that a ban on U.S. poultry imports into India could be on its way out.

India has blocked the import of poultry from the U.S. for more than seven years, claiming the move is to guard against the threat of avian influenza. That move has been opposed by American leaders, including Delaware’s Congressional Delegation, on behalf of the massive chicken industry in the First State.

A WTO dispute settlement panel ruled in favor of the U.S., agreeing that India’s ban violated numerous international trade rules. The panel determined that the ban was imposed without sufficient scientific evidence.

The WTO ruling won’t immediately lift the ban on poultry imports in India, but U.S. Sen Chris Coons said it is an important step in the fight.

Africa and chickens

The issue crosses two major areas of interest for Coons: Africa and chickens.

Coons chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs in the last Congress. He visited areas of Africa affected by Ebola late last year. Coons also hosts an annual conference called Opportunity Africa. Last year’s conference in Wilmington featured former President Bill Clinton as keynote speaker.

Chickens are a major industry for Delaware agriculture. The state grows more than 200 million birds every year. Coons joined Isakson in 2013 to co-found the bipartisan Senate Chicken Caucus.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.