South Africa has resolved a dispute with the United States over farm exports, allowing agricultural goods to be exported to the world's top economy without penalties, the trade minister said on Thursday.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Nov. 5 that he would revoke the duty-free status of South African agricultural produce unless Pretoria took action by the end of last year to loosen restrictions on U.S. farm exports.

South Africa's Trade Minister Rob Davies said "we think we have cracked the deal" and felt South Africa would remain in AGOA but they were waiting for confirmation from the U.S.

At stake is South Africa's membership of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a U.S. trade agreement designed to help African exporters.

"We look forward to a strengthening of relations, not just to going back to where they were," Davies told reporters in the capital Pretoria. "We have succeeded in achieving a balance in maintaining the trade opening with the U.S. and the animal health in South Africa."

On Monday, Davies said Pretoria was keen to meet outstanding requirements on beef exports to South Africa, and that discussions with Washington were ongoing.

Eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment is one of the criteria for membership of AGOA, which was renewed earlier last year and provides duty-free access to goods from sub-Saharan African countries, ranging from crude oil to clothing.

South African products affected would include oranges, macadamia nuts, wine and citrus, U.S. data shows.