The two committees with jurisdiction over trade policy in the U.S. Congress, the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways & Means Committee, both held hearings last week to publicly discuss U.S. 2006 trade policies and strategies. The hearings are an annual opportunity for the Administration to outline its trade strategy and Congress to highlight trade priorities for the coming year.
"It's clear from comments made in hearings this week that increased export opportunities for U.S. beef is a high priority right now for Congress and the Bush Administration," says Mike John, Missouri cattle producer and National Cattlemen's Beef Association president. "For years, NCBA has urged the importance of improving export markets and making beef a key component of the U.S. trade agenda. We are extremely proud that our government is listening to our concerns and making cattle producers a priority."
In his testimony outlining the 2006 Trade Agenda, United States Trade Representative Rob Portman affirmed that expanding market access for agriculture through tariff reductions was a top priority, specifically referring to U.S. beef.
Leaders vocalize U.S. beef trade priorities
Ambassador Portman: "We've made some great progress just in the last couple of months on beef. We hope to make some more progress in the next couple of months with regard to a number of different countries. Japan was a step forward and then a step back. We're hoping to be able to restore that market soon."
"Boneless beef is our largest export and it is an important accomplishment for our cattlemen. What we are still seeking though, after commending our Korean trade partners for this opening, is that the bone-in product, including short ribs, also be included. We believe that the science supports our position strongly. And we believe that the international standards support the position that we have taken. So we're hopeful that through the process of additional discussions and focus on science and focus on the international standards, we'll be able to open the market even further in Korea."
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa: "Let me be clear. Congress will not accept any agreement that fails to provide meaningful market access for U.S. agricultural exports, in developed and developing countries alike. In addition, we expect significant progress in harmonizing domestic supports for agriculture... The shared benefits of trade come from open markets, not protected ones."
"With respect to implementing the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement [CAFTA-DR]. The fact is, recognition of the equivalency of our inspection system for meat and poultry was discussed in parallel with the CAFTA negotiations, and Congress anticipated that such equivalency would be recognized as part of the CAFTA implementation process. I was glad to see El Salvador follow through on that recently, and I hope the other CAFTA countries do so without delay. Only then will we be able to share fully in the benefits of free and open trade between our nations."
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.: "To truly enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. economy, these negotiations must address the real barriers facing U.S. exporters, like Korea's continued ban on imports of bone-in beef, its non-tariff barriers that limit foreign penetration in its auto market to just two percent, and its selective harassment of U.S. investors."
"There is a very real sense in the Congress that our trading partners do not always play by the rules. We cannot encourage our ranchers, farmers, and businesses to embrace international trade unless they have confidence that the U.S. government will back them."
"Trade is an integral part of competitiveness. a more competitive America requires us to focus more resources on trade enforcement."
"The Doha Round offers a real opportunity for America's farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and innovators. But our trading partners must realize they must give in order to get. We have already offered our trading partners quite a lot, especially on agriculture. It is high time they follow suit. From the standpoint of U.S. competitiveness, a deal which does not include substantial reductions in the agricultural tariffs of the EU, India, and others is a bad deal."
Chairman of House Committee on Ways and Means Bill Thomas, R-Cal.: "Japan has a long history of blocking U.S. goods, devising non-tariff barriers that allow their firms and farmers to operate while keeping out imports. U.S. beef is only the most well-publicized example. we are not looking for apologists for Japan's behavior. We're looking for results."
"The same holds for China. Our success in stopping the Chinese from creating new discriminatory taxes, dumping duties, and standards is no substitute for getting China to follow its original core WTO obligations such as stopping U.S. product counterfeiting."
"And finally, we must not forget about the Europeans.Once again, the WTO backs us by requiring science-based standards, and the EU continues to rely on excuses and delays."
Other key mentions of U.S. beef in this week's Congressional hearings included:
- Rep. Wally Herger, R-Cal., urged the re-opening of export markets for U.S. beef stating that trade must be science-based and the United States has taken all necessary steps, going above and beyond international standards.
- Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., also discussed the continued non-scientific bans on U.S. beef and urged Ambassador Portman regarding the importance of the expedited lifting of these bans.
- Rep. Bob Beauprez, R - Col., highlighted the importance of sharing our high-quality U.S. beef with the rest of the world.
- Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., asked about the status of reopening the market for U.S. live cattle exports to Mexico.