WASHINGTON – June 20, 2012 - Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ben Nelson of Nebraska today released a letter asking President Obama to prioritize Russia’s compliance with scientific standards set for international trade of for beef, pork and poultry products as part of negotiations with Russia over international trade relations.
“As we look to possibly grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations to Russia as part of the WTO accession process, livestock producers in the United States needs the President to give attention to sanitary and phytosanitary issues,” Grassley said. “As it stands, Russians have standards that simply aren’t supported by science for some U.S. meat and poultry exports.”
“Nebraska livestock producers have seen a drop in sales from Russia imposing standards not based entirely on sound science,” Nelson said. “Russia’s restrictions on American livestock violate the WTO rules, and we must have assurances Russia will abide by all of its rules and standards before Russia joins the WTO.”
On Thursday, the Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Permanent Normal Trade Relations for Russia. Grassley, a former chairman of the committee, said he will ask questions of administration officials about Russia’s treatment of U.S. agricultural goods.
The text of the Grassley-Nelson letter is below. The following 32 senators joined them in signing the letter: Mark Kirk of Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, John Thune of South Dakota, Al Franken of Minnesota, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Michael Bennett of Colorado, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Kay Hagan of North Dakota, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mark Udall of Colorado, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Dan Coats of Indiana, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John Boozman of Arkansas, and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.
Click here to see a signed copy of the letter.
June 19, 2012
President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Obama:
As Congress is faced with a decision of whether or not we grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to Russia, there are a number of issues left to be resolved. However, we want to raise a particular issue with you that is important to U.S. farmers and ranchers. Among the outstanding issues yet to be addressed adequately is Russia’s failure to bring its practices into compliance with unambiguous WTO sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards with respect to imports of meat and poultry products from the United States.
We know you understand the importance of beef, pork, and poultry to the U.S. and Russia trade relationship. Last year, U.S. meat and poultry exports collectively ranked second only to aircraft engines in total U.S. export value to Russia. We appreciate our trade officials’ efforts in obtaining strong tariff and quota access provisions from Russia in the accession talks.
However, U.S. meat and poultry exports have been steadily falling in recent years due to Russia’s non-science based sanitary measures. Russia’s restrictions are numerous and range from the unjustifiable de-listing of U.S. meat processing facilities to arbitrary SPS actions that lack scientific justification to limit or even halt poultry and meat imports. Judging by Russia’s past and current practices on SPS issues, we lack confidence that Russia will all of a sudden treat U.S. pork and poultry products equitably upon entry into the WTO. Furthermore, while U.S. beef does not currently face the challenges U.S. pork and poultry are dealing with, given Russia’s track record on U.S. pork and poultry, we have little reason to believe U.S. beef won’t eventually face its own issues with non-science based SPS measures instituted by Russian officials.
Officials in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Agriculture are well acquainted with the Russian measures we are referring to, and they appreciate the fact Russia’s approach is not supported by science. Our trade officials must keep up the pressure on Russia to lower these non-science based SPS barriers, and urge Russia to take these steps prior to formal entry into the WTO. If we are not able to adequately address the SPS issues, it will undermine the commitments we obtained on tariffs and quotas.
We ask that you direct our trade officials to continue every effort to obtain firm, science-based commitments from Russia on the outstanding SPS issues prior to their formal entry into the WTO. The commitments we are asking for from Russia are reasonable and achievable and are within the scope of the type of commitments made to the United States by both China and Vietnam in the context of their accessions to the WTO. In addition, we urge you to address these issues with President Putin at your earliest opportunity.
We hope you will agree every effort should be made to lower these unjustifiable barriers hurting U.S. farmers, and that it should happen prior to Russia’s formal entry into the WTO. We stand behind our farmers and products they produce, and they deserve to be treated equitably by our trading partners. While this is only one of many issues that needs to be addressed by Russia, it is a key issue. If it were resolved in a satisfactory manner it would certainly be a crucial step forward in our trade relationship with Russia.