Grassley Seeks Fair Treatment for American Agriculture
"American farmers deserve to have foreign countries live up to their trade agreements. And they deserve to have their own government respond strongly when agreements are breached," Grassley said. "The EU has had more than sufficient time to recognize the equivalency of our inspection system. Now is the time to reach an agreement or take certain retaliatory action against the European Union."
Grassley's frustration stems from the refusal of the EU to allow value-added U.S. meat products to be sold in EU-member nations. Grassley said U.S. cattle, pork and poultry producers have been fighting this trade barrier for more than 10 years. In response to the unfair treatment, the U.S. sought out what became the 1992 Meat Agreement, whereby the EU agreed that U.S. plants would be certified if their inspection systems are "equivalent" to the EU's. Despite this agreement and commitments made since 1992 under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, the EU has not made significant progress in certifying U.S. plants.
In a letter to Barshefsky, Grassley specified that the administration should act against the EU's exports of meat to the United States if no agreement on this issue is reached with the EU by April 1. Furthermore, Grassley stated that if the USTR failed to respond as necessary, he would work for immediate consideration by Congress of legislation he introduced in January with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. The Grassley/Daschle proposal would require either the initiation of formal dispute settlement procedures or unilateral action when the EU violates any trade agreement by failing to certify U.S. meat packing plants for export.
"We cannot sit on our hands while the EU blatantly disregards trade agreements. American farmers have been shut out of the entire European market since 1985. Our producers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exports while European farmers were allowed to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of pork in the United States. The administration must recognize how high the stakes are, particularly as American agriculture becomes more and more dependent on foreign markets," Grassley said.
The problem comes from the EU's Third Country Meat Directive, which was adopted in 1985. It prohibits the sale of U.S. pork, beef and poultry in Europe if the U.S. meat-processing plants have not been certified. At the same time, Grassley said there is overwhelming scientific evidence that sanitary standards in U.S. plants are equal to or superior to those in Europe. Nevertheless, the EU has used this directive to stop over 400 U.S. facilities from exporting meat to the EU.
In his letter today, Grassley stated his support for the January 1997 cables sent by the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service informing the EU that "all meat, meat products, poultry, and poultry products shipped to the United States from member states of the European Union will have to be produced in plants which specifically adhere to and meet U.S. regulatory requirements." Grassley also said he was encouraged by Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman's statement earlier this month that he would implement this policy if an agreement is not reached.
Negotiators for the EU and the U.S. are scheduled to meet Tuesday, March 25 and Wednesday, March 26 in Washington in a final attempt to reach an agreement before the deadline on April 1. Grassley serves as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on International Trade.