FILE - South African Minister for Trade and Industry Rob Davies talks to the press.
FILE - South African Minister for Trade and Industry Rob Davies talks to the press.

PRETORIA - South Africa has resolved a dispute with the United States over farm exports, allowing agricultural goods to be exported to the world's top economy
without penalties, the trade minister said on Thursday.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on November 5 that he would revoke the duty- free status of South African agricultural produce unless Pretoria took action by the end of last year to loosen restrictions on U.S. farm exports.

South Africa's Trade Minister Rob Davies said "we think we have cracked the deal" and felt South Africa would remain in AGOA but they were waiting for confirmation from the United States. At stake is South Africa's membership in the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a U.S. trade agreement designed to
help African exporters.

"We look forward to a strengthening of relations, not just to going back to where they were," Davies told reporters. "We have succeeded in achieving a balance in maintaining the trade opening with the U.S. and the animal health in South Africa."

On Monday, Davies said Pretoria was keen to meet outstanding requirements on beef exports to South Africa, and that discussions with Washington were ongoing.

In a statement, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the United States still needed to ensure South Africans were able to purchase U.S. poultry products before confirming that South Africa could enjoy full AGOA benefits.

"While we celebrate the progress we have made in resolving the outstanding technical issues, the true test of our success will be based on the ability of South African consumers to buy American product in local stores," he said.

Eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment is one of the criteria for membership of AGOA, which was renewed earlier last year and provides duty-free access to goods from sub-Saharan African countries, ranging from crude oil to clothing.

South Africa exported $176 million in agricultural products to the United States under AGOA in 2014 and potential lost benefits are estimated to total $4 million to $7 million.

South African products affected would include oranges, macadamia nuts, wine and citrus, U.S. data shows.