Grassley, Daschle Work for American Agriculture
The first of the two bi-partisan bills advanced by Grassley and Daschle would require the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to determine whether the European Union (EU) has violated its trade agreements with the United States by failing to certify U.S. beef and pork processing plans to export to the European Union.
"The impact of the EU's blatant disregard of our trade agreements is substantial for the U.S. meat industry. Our cattle and hog farmers have been effectively shut out of the entire European market. All this comes at a time when American agriculture is becoming more dependent on foreign markets," Grassley said. The problem arises under the EU's Third Country Meat Directive. If a plant has not been certified it cannot export to the EU-member nations. Since the mid-1980s the EU has used this Directive to prohibit over 400 U.S. facilities from exporting beef and pork to the EU.
In 1992, a Meat Agreement was reached whereby the EU agreed that U.S. plants would be certified if their inspection systems are 'equivalent' to the EU's. Grassley expressed frustration that in spite of this Agreement, and commitments made under the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, the EU has not made significant progress in certifying U.S. plants.
He said the Grassley/Daschle bill is important because when a determination is made by USTR that the EU has violated its trade agreements, it requires the USTR is required to take action. "The action could take the form of unilateral retaliation, for example. What's more the bill requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reconsider U.S. certification of European plants if this problem continues," Grassley said. "It is time to take swift and strong action to eliminate this barrier to our value-added agricultural products."
The second bill introduced today by the farm state senators would require the USTR to identify on an annual basis those countries that deny market access to U.S. value-added ag products. The Daschle/Grassley bill also would require the administration to identify countries who are violating the Sanitary and Phytosanitary provisions of the GATT. These provisions require countries to use sound science when citing health concerns as a reason for excluding foreign agricultural products.
"The U.S. government must identify and understand the trade barriers faced by American agriculture before it can work to eliminate them. Not only is foreign trade vital to American farmers, it is vital to the U.S. balance of payments. Ag trade is the shining star in an otherwise increasing trade deficit. But we cannot rest on the success of the past. In existing markets we could be doing much better in terms of market share. And many markets remain closed to U.S. ag products," Grassley said.
Grassley said the second bill will help pinpoint U.S. successes and failures as the administration moves forward on bilateral negotiations and eventually a new round of ag negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) beginning in 1999. "This annual report will serve as a blueprint to achieving worldwide access for the commodities produced on America's family farms," Grassley said.
Grassley is a senior member of the Finance Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on International Trade. He also serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee. The legislation introduced today will be considered by the Finance Committee.