The Copyright Coalition of South Africa (CCSA) has warned that the government’s planned Copyright Amendment Bill will have dire consequences for the country’s economy, including billions of rands in lost revenue.
The warning comes as the Office of the United States Trade Representative plans to hold public hearings in Washington D.C. on South Africa’s eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) under the US Trade Act.
The country’s eligibility for the GSP programme has been called into question as a result of the passing of the Copyright Amendment Bill in parliament last year.
If South Africa loses its GSP eligibility, the country will potentially lose up to R34 billion in export revenue, the CCSA said.
“Our country cannot afford the diplomatic stress, loss of export revenue, and the thousands of jobs that these South African exports create.
“Our current GSP designation allows South Africa preferential duty-free access to US markets for selected export products. Should the upcoming review find that the Copyright Amendment Bill does not adequately protect US intellectual property, South Africa will lose its GSP designation,” it said.
The office of the United States Trade Representative said in October 2019 that it would review South Africa’s eligibility to participate in its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) based on a petition it had received.
The GSP is the largest and oldest US trade preference program.
It is designed to promote economic development by allowing duty-free entry into the United States for 3,500 products from the 119 designated beneficiary countries and territories.
To remain eligible for these advantages, beneficiary countries must comply with 15 statutory eligibility criteria that are important to US interests, including taking steps to afford internationally recognized labour rights, providing adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights, and assuring equitable and reasonable access to its markets.
Under the GSP programme and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), sub-Saharan African countries are granted duty-free access to the US market for more than 6,000 products.
These include: meat, fruit, vegetables, precious metals, chemicals, iron and steel products, and a range of manufactured goods.
“It is critical that President Ramaphosa take action now on the Copyright Amendment Bill to avert catastrophic economic loss,”the CCSA said.
“With the World Bank having already revised South Africa’s 2020 economic growth forecast downward from 1.5% to 0.9%, the country cannot afford this unnecessary risk.”