Copyright Amendment Bill: potential cause for concern for trade between SA and the USA

Sources:  Copyright Amendment Bill an issue for trade between SA and US (businesslive.co.za)

Copyright Amendment Bill: US Trade Representative to review SA’s Preferential Trade status – Tech4Law

The much-awaited analysis of the Copyright Amendment Bill and the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill has been seemingly frozen since December 2020, and there has not yet been any news of its possible thawing. The delay is due to a number of constitutional reservations that were raised by President Ramaphosa, explained in our previous article here.

This, together with the announcement made by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, placing South Africa’s eligibility in terms of the GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) and AGOA (the African Growth and Opportunity Act) under review, indicates that South Africa is at the brink of losing its access to the market of the United States of America.

South Africa is a party to the GSP, a USA-based trade preference programme that provides opportunities to other countries to use trade to cultivate their economies by eradicating duties on thousands of imported products, thereby encouraging sustainable development and diversifying their trade with the United States. It is also a party to the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is a vital piece of legislation that significantly boosts market access to the USA for qualifying Sub-Saharan African countries.

The announcement of the review follows the International Intellectual Property Alliance’s (IIPA) allegation that the Copyright Amendment Bill and Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill leave gaping holes as they fail to “provide adequate and effective protection” of American copyrights. The IIPA is a USA-based group that represents a broad spectrum of companies involved in the production and distribution of books, films, music and video games.

Should the results of the review not weigh in our favour, and South Africa loses its GSP status, the South African economy would suffer significantly. Trade in goods and services between South Africa and the United States of America were valued at US$17.8 billion (about R258 billion) in 2019 alone. A negative outcome of the review could potentially have a dire effect on local businesses, jobs and investments.

It appears that the South African officials plan to meet their USA counterparts in March 2021 to discuss trade relations, under the new administration of the recently inaugurated President Joe Biden. According to Lionel October, the Director-General of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, “We are planning to put a lot of effort into our relationship with the US.”

October has indicated that while South Africa does have its reservations in striking a fresh trade deal with the USA, there are hopes to preserve the current dealings. “We are working more on continuing GSP preferences, hopefully getting an extension to AGOA (which is due to expire in 2025) … rather than a (new) full-blown trade agreement”. He indicated that this may take four to five years to adequately negotiate.

We will watch the space and keep you updated.

Maureen Makoko
Associate | Trade mark Attorney
Chiraag Maharaj
Associate | Attorney
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