Obama phones Zuma over meat imports tiff

US President Barack Obama and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma had a fruitful telephone conversation this week touching on meat imports from America, over which Washington had recently threatened trade sanctions.
The White House statement subsequent to the midweek phone call said President Obama emphasised his hope that outstanding issues will be resolved quickly so that South Africa continues to benefit fully from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).
The two leaders also discussed the recent terrorist-style shooting of two Americans and a South African colleague working for US security firm DynCorp in Amman, Jordan.
In all, five people were killed in the shooting spree and six others injured.
“The presidency confirms the communication released by the White House about the telephone conversation between President Jacob Zuma and President Barack Obama,” read a South African government statement.
“The two presidents exchanged messages of condolence on the tragic fatal shooting of the citizens of South Africa and the United States in Jordan this week.”
President Obama, who made the phone call on Wednesday night, also engaged President Zuma on the Burundi situation and the upcoming UN Climate Change conference in Paris.
Last week, the US leader had threatened to limit South Africa’s access to the Agoa facility in protest over alleged trade barriers imposed on American beef imports.
He had said he would revoke duty-free status for South African agricultural goods in 60 days under the Agoa programme set up to help African exporters.
The warning came after a drawn-out dispute over US chicken and meat exports in which South Africa missed an October 15 deadline to agree on new animal health and food safety rules. South Africa’s stance continues to affect US beef and pork exports.
President Obama said that suspension of Agoa benefits would be more effective in promoting compliance by South Africa with the Agoa’s eligibility requirements rather than the termination of South Africa as a beneficiary.
President Zuma’s office said that the two sides are close to concluding discussions regarding the meat imports issue.”The two presidents reaffirmed the warm bilateral relations between the two countries and governments and pledged to continue cooperating on various matters of mutual interest bilaterally and globally,” concluded the statement.