Pretoria — Washington is on the brink of striking out South Africa off the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), after it missed its December 31 deadline to resolve a dispute on trade levies.
January 4, 2016 was South Africa's deadline to comply with a US trade agreement or risk losing export benefits.
South Africa signed the Agoa agreement, but missed an October deadline to agree on new animal health and food safety rules.
Agoa, renewed by US lawmakers in June 2015, eliminates import levies on more than 7,000 products ranging from textiles to manufactured items and benefits 39 sub-Saharan African nations.
Total two-way trade between South Africa and the US was about $14 billion last year.
US President Barack Obama is expected to make an announcement while South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is also expected to shed light on the matter. Washington's Trade Representative spokesperson, Mr Trevor Kincard, confirmed that when the deadline expired at midnight on December 31, outstanding issues had not been resolved.
DTI director general Lionel October is confident the trade dispute will be resolved allowing South Africa to retain duty-free access for farm export.
"We are totally committed to finding a resolution," Mr October said. He added that veterinarians from the two countries were in daily contact to try to resolve outstanding issues relating to testing of US imports of poultry and pork for salmonella and other diseases.
"We have made the concessions on pork and beef imports. We and the US Embassy are getting the vets to issue the final health and safety protocols," he said.
Early in November, Mr Obama said South Africa continued to impose several long-standing barriers to US trade and had been given 60 days to take remedial action or face suspension of some of its trade preferences under Agoa.
Countries are required to eliminate barriers to US trade and investment.