Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.  Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

TRADE and Industry Minister Rob Davies is "hiding" behind the "soft and blunt" option of increasing the general tariffs on imported chicken instead of taking the fight against dumping by the Brazilians to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Democratic Alliance spokesman on trade and industry Wilmot James said.

Last week the minister rejected a recommendation by the International Trade Administration Commission (Itac) for final antidumping duties to be imposed on imported whole birds and boneless chicken cuts from Brazil — as requested by the South African Poultry Association. Instead he proposed that the general tariff on all imported chicken be increased as the applied tariff was less than the bound rate imposed by the WTO.

But local producers say this measure will not help them against the massive influx of cheap chicken products because it will not affect imports from the European Union, which enjoy a zero tariff under the Trade Development Co-operation Agreement with South Africa.

Mr Davies said Brazil — which lodged a complaint with the WTO against the preliminary antidumping duties Itac imposed in February — was determined to fight any move to characterise its exports as dumping "all the way".

Mr James said Mr Davies’s solution did not appear to support local business interests and the protection of local jobs.

"Instead of fighting the Brazilians for dumping chicken in our local and highly competitive market, Mr Davies chose the soft and blunt option of hiding behind general tariffs without providing compelling factual reasons for his actions," Mr James said.

He noted that two investigations undertaken by Itac showed that the Brazilians were guilty of dumping and questioned why the minister had not taken its reports seriously.

"Why is Minister Davies afraid of taking the fight to the Brazilians? The South African Poultry Association estimates that 20,000 jobs could well be created were it not for the unrealistic and inexplicably low prices for imported whole and cut pieces of chicken. It is time Mr Davies stiffened his backbone and stood up for South African business — and for job creation."