Grassley, Brownback Rally Congressional Support for Agriculture
"This resolution states clearly that the European Union (EU) is unfairly restricting imports of U.S. agricultural products and that breaking down these barriers to trade must be a top priority of our own government in negotiations with the EU," Grassley said. "American farmers can compete for any market, any where in the world, but they must have access to a level playing field. Right now, we have an extraordinary number of unresolved trade disputes with the EU, yet we read news reports that USTR is seeking a new trans-Atlantic trade pact on issues unrelated to agriculture. It is critical that disputes related to agriculture be resolved in any agreement. If not, all leverage is lost to address them down the road."
Grassley said that policy makers and negotiators in Washington should recognize that agriculture is the "shining star" in the U.S. trade deficit. In 1996, U.S. agricultural exports reached a record level of $60 billion, compared to a total U.S. merchandise trade deficit of $170 billion the same year.
The Senate resolution introduced today restated the outstanding agricultural trade disputes spelled out last week in a letter Grassley and Brownback sent to Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky. Specifically, it noted the following.
- Even though the World Trade Organization ruled that the ban imposed by the EU on hormone-treated beef was an unfair barrier to trade, the EU has decided that it wants to "study" the issue further.
- The EU has failed to implement the bilateral agreement on veterinary equivalence standards even though the pact was supposed to enter into force on October 1, 1997.
- The agreement regarding "specific risk materials" for meat products also was supposed to enter into force last year, but it hasn't even been concluded.
- The EU has hindered trade in genetically-engineered crops. And,
- Outstanding disputes remain with EU subsidies for dairy, wheat gluten and canned fruits.
The bottom line, according to Grassley is that "USTR should not move forward with any negotiations regarding a comprehensive trans-Atlantic trade agreement unless agriculture is a top priority." The only working farmer in the U.S. Senate, Grassley said he is "committed to making sure American agriculture receives the attention it deserves."
Grassley serves as Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on International Trade.