South Africa’s access to the United States (US) market is under the microscope, following concerns expressed by US companies that South Africa is failing to protect their intellectual property.

At issue is the Copyright Amendment Bill, which is awaiting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature.

Critics – including many in South Africa’s creative industries – have argued that it dilutes copyright protections. ‘Fair use’ provisions, for example, could allow material to be widely reproduced.

As a result of this, the US has announced a review of South Africa’s eligibility for duty-free access to its markets in terms of its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). The GSP includes, but is not confined to, the market access granted in terms of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). A loss of eligibility for the GSP would automatically mean a loss of AGOA benefits as well.

In 2018, the value of exports from South Africa to the US under the GSP and AGOA totalled some R34.8 billion.

While a loss of preferential access would not halt these exports to the US, it would make them more expensive, and thus reduce their attractiveness to US customers.