Has Ebrahim Patel done a deal with Brazil?

Has South Africa done a deal with Brazil not only to suspend anti-dumping duties on imported Brazilian chicken portions, but possibly also with the assurance that the duties will never be imposed?

These questions arise from a Brazilian government statement welcoming, somewhat triumphantly, the South African decision to approve anti-dumping duties against Brazil, but to suspend the imposition of those duties for 12 months.

government gazette on 1 August said South Africa’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, had decided on the suspension “having considered the rapid rise in food prices in the local market and globally, and the significant impact this has, especially on the poor”.

In a subsequent interview of Radio 702, Patel confirmed the link to inflation, and even hinted that the tariffs might be imposed sooner than 12 months if the rise in food prices came down.

Brazil, however, thinks its interventions did the trick. According to Reuters, “the suspension for up to 12 months was taken after several months of negotiations between the Brazilian government and South Africa, the ministry said in a statement.”

The Brazilian government statement made no mention of food inflation, stating that the South African decision came after Brazil’s government departments had engaged in months of dialogue with “the South African authorities”.

Brazil would certainly have engaged with South Africa’s trade regulator, the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC), which had asked it for comment on the local poultry industry’s application for the anti-dumping duties. But did they also engage with Patel or any of his officials?

It would seem that Brazil believes the suspension is permanent, not temporary, and that those anti-dumping duties will not be imposed. Its statement says: “The Brazilian Government will continue to pay attention to the case in the expectation that the temporary suspension of anti-dumping tariffs will become definitive.” (translated from Portuguese).

What information does Brazil have to proclaim with such confidence its expectation that its bone-in chicken portions, such as leg quarters, will not face anti-dumping duties of up to 265%?

Minister Patel owes it to the South African public to say Brazil has been given no such assurance. And he owes it to South African chicken farmers to confirm that the suspension of duties on dumped chicken imports from Brazil is temporary, and may well be shorter than 12 months.