South Africa will potentially lose up to R34 billion in export revenue if its eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) under the United States Trade Act falls away as a result of parliament passing the Copyright Amendment Bill in Parliament last year, a coalition of industry bodies said on Thursday. Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa will potentially lose up to R34 billion in export revenue if its eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) under the United States Trade Act falls away as a result of parliament passing the Copyright Amendment Bill in Parliament last year, a coalition of industry bodies said on Thursday.

The office of the United States trade representative is set to hold public hearings in Washington D.C. on January 30 on whether South Africa remains eligible for its current GSP designation which allows it preferential duty-free access to US markets for selected export products.

In a statement, the Copyright Coalition of South Africa said this had been called into question as a result of last year's passing of the bill and urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to send it back to parliament.

Critics say the bill, which would effectively allow the free use of copyrighted content, would infringe on intellectual property rights.

"The Copyright Coalition of South Africa is calling on President Ramaphosa to act now before it is too late," coalition chairman Collen Dlamini said in a statement on Thursday.

"Should the upcoming review find that the Copyright Amendment Bill does not adequately protect U.S. intellectual property, South Africa will lose its GSP designation. Our country cannot afford the diplomatic stress, loss of export revenue, and the thousands of jobs that these South African exports create."

Under the GSP programme and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), sub-Saharan African countries are granted duty-free access to the U.S. market for more than 6,000 products, including meat, fruit, vegetables, precious metals, chemicals, iron and steel products and a range of manufactured goods.

In 2018 alone, the value of South African goods exported to the U.S. under GSP amounted to as much as R34 billion, Dlamini said.

"It is critical that President Ramaphosa take action now on the Copyright Amendment Bill to avert catastrophic economic loss," he said.

"With the World Bank having already revised South Africa’s 2020 economic growth forecast downward from 1.5 percent to 0.9 percent, the country cannot afford this unnecessary risk."

The Copyright Coalition of South Africa includes the Independent Black Filmmakers Collective, the Music Publishers Association of SA, the Publishers Association of SA, the Academic and Non-Fiction Authors of SA, Printing SA and the Recording Industry of SA, among several other groups.

- African News Agency (ANA)