Russia on Saturday announced new testing regulations for U.S. meat exports, requiring that all meat be free of ractopamine, a feed additive used to promote leanness.
Russia's new requirements come just after the Senate and House passed the Jackson-Vanik Repeal Act, legislation that would allow establishment of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia. Russia joined the World Trade Organization this summer.
United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk on Saturday said the U.S. is "very concerned" with Russia's actions, which they said appear to be inconsistent with member obligations of the WTO.
Vilsack and Kirk called on Russia to suspend these new measures and restore market access for U.S. beef and pork products.
"The United States sought, and Russia committed as part of its WTO accession package, to ensure that it adhered rigorously to WTO requirements and that it would use international standards unless it had a risk assessment to justify use of a more stringent standard. Especially in light of its commitment to use international standards, this is an important opportunity for Russia to demonstrate that it takes its WTO commitments seriously," Vilsack and Kirk said in a USDA statement.
Ractopamine has long been a point of disagreement, though the U.N.'s Codex Alimentarius Commission in July issued international trade standards for the drug. Several countries and the U.S. have used the drug for more than a decade.
After Codex announced its standards this summer, the National Pork Producers immediately voiced concern about Russia's commitment to the ruling.
"U.S. pork producers are very disappointed with the continued opposition to ractopamine for reasons other than scientific ones from several countries, particularly Russia," said NPPC President R.C. Hunt in a statement after the ruling. "Given Russia's intransigence on ractopamine, we're concerned about its commitment to WTO principles."
According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, value of beef exports to Russia totaled $203.7 million and pork exports totaled $202.9 million from January to September, 2012.
USMEF says representatives of the U.S. and Russian governments, as well as USMEF, will participate in meetings to discuss the ractopamine regulations. USMEF says it is "confident that a science-based solution to the disagreement over testing and certification can be found quickly so that exports of U.S. beef and pork to Russia can resume in the near future."