Bilateral negotiations to end agricultural trade disputes failed with 46 nations, the European Union, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the South African Development Community, according to a new report from the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office.
The USTR’s annual Report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures lists 12 instances of unwarranted non-tariff trade barriers in China alone, involving poultry, beef, pork, apples and pears.
The U.S. “strongly supports the right of governments … to protect their people, animals and plants from health risks,” the report said. Too often, however, foreign actions are “really disguised protectionist barriers to trade, not grounded in science.”
The Cabinet-level trade agency said the annual report focuses on sanitary and phytosanitary measures “that appear to be unscientific, unduly burdensome, discriminatory, or otherwise unwarranted, and create significant barriers to U.S. exports.”
Trying to settle the disputes through diplomatic means or by filing claims at the World Trade Organization are necessary steps in President Obama’s goal of doubling exports within five years, the report said.
“Many countries have used the threat of avian influenza or bovine spongiform encephalopathy as a reason to block U.S. poultry and beef exports, respectively, ignoring international science-based standards that establish appropriate measures for addressing those diseases,” officials said in the report sent to Congress in late March.
A number of the disputes listed in the 100-page report deal with markets where U.S. beef is still banned or subject to restrictions because of fears of BSE, known as mad cow disease. The goal of the U.S. government is to remove all unwarranted limitations on beef sales, according to the report.
In 1992, there were 37,316 diagnosed cases of mad cow disease, with 99.9 percent of those cases in the U.K, the report notes. In 2011, there were 28 cases diagnosed globally, only one of which was outside Europe, according to the OIE, an international organization that has set global standards for risk assessment.
Only three cases of mad cow have been identified in the U.S., and strong regulatory controls are in place to prevent more cases, making any trade restrictions unnecessary, the report said. A number of countries still ban U.S. beef entirely, refuse shipments containing bones or require cattle to be slaughtered by a certain age, all policies that aren’t scientifically warranted according to OIE policies, the USTR said.
China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Chile and Brazil are among the countries with bans or restrictions on U.S. beef.
Bilateral talks have worked to remove the trade barriers in a number of instances, the USTR said.
“U.S. negotiators removed specific barriers in Japan and Korea for U.S. cherries and citrus, as well as barriers in South Africa and Sri Lanka for apples and seed potatoes,” it said. “The United States also worked with Kuwait and Taiwan to lift unwarranted restrictions on U.S. exports of poultry and poultry products, and the United States negotiated for full market access for U.S. beef to the United Arab Emirates.”
When diplomacy fails, the U.S. reserves the right to file a complaint with the WTO, the USTR said.
Since the WTO was established in 1995, the U.S. has successfully challenged foreign non-tariff measures in four proceedings, and a fifth is under way.
The report said a growing area of non-tariff trade barriers involves burdensome but unnecessary paperwork filings. “In recent years, many trading partners have begun requiring export certificates to include cumbersome and often unnecessary ‘attestations’ that, for example, may subject imports to unwarranted or overly burdensome testing requirements,” the report said.
“Certain importing countries require individual food shipments to be accompanied by an export certification that addresses the prevalence of certain animal or plant diseases in the exporting country when information on this subject is often freely available on Web sites that the exporting government or an international standard setting body, such as the OIE, maintains,” the report said.
The end-result is that small and medium-sized companies are unfairly blocked from the export market, the report said.
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