Business organisation Sakeliga has requested President Cyril Ramaphosa to delay the enactment of two Bills of Parliament, which it says could potentially jeopardise 40% of South Africa’s exports to the US.
The relevant Bills are the Copyright Amendment Bill (B13B-2017) and the Performer’s Protection Bill (B24B-2016).
Sakeliga’s open letter on Monday follows an announcement made last week by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) of a review of South Africa’s eligibility for tariff exemptions under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).
To add to the gravity of the matter, Sakeliga laments that South Africa’s GSP eligibility has implications for its eligibility for duty-free access to the US market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).
Sakeliga CEO Piet le Roux points out that, of the $8-billion worth of exports from South Africa to the US in 2017, $1.1-billion (14%) benefited from GSP exemptions, and $1.8-billion (23%) from Agoa exemptions.
“Given that, in recent years, up to 40% of exports from South Africa to the US benefited from GSP and Agoa tariff exemptions, the importance of careful consideration of the impact of enactment of the Bills cannot be overstated,” he emphasises.
In Sakeliga’s letter to the President, Sakeliga also requests that the President exercise his “prerogative to refer the two Bills for Constitutional review back to the National Assembly”, which could aid the President in his ultimate decision, Le Roux says.
The letter also refers to the possibility that, if the President were to be required under law to sign these Bills, thereby enacting them, the President would need to consider determining their start dates as far as possible into the future, in order to afford Parliament time to reconsider its position in light of developments and propose alternative, or further, Bills, before the Acts come into effect.
According to Le Roux, such a course of action would require diplomatic engagement with relevant US representatives, in order to assure them that the delay is an appropriate mechanism to afford Parliament time to propose alternative legislation that addresses the GSP review concerns.
The review of South Africa’s eligibility for GSP exemptions comes after acceptance by the USTR of a petition by the International Intellectual Property Alliance, which cited the two Bills currently awaiting the President’s signature as reasons for their petition, arguing that the Bills fall short of international treaty obligations and GSP criteria.