LINCOLN AND OTHERS URGE USDA, USTR OFFICIALS TO HALT CHINA'S HARMFUL NEW COTTON REGISTRATION POLICY
U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting immediate action to stop the Peoples Republic of China from implementing a new registration system exclusively for imported cotton. The Senators argued the new system, launched as part of China's General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), lacks transparency and is in clear violation of China's World Trade Organization (WTO) accession agreement. The Senators sent a similar letter to Acting U. S. Trade Representative Peter Allgeier and Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong.
In the letters, the Senators specifically outline their requests of Sec. Vilsack, Ambassador Allgeier and Ambassador Wenzhong to encourage appropriate U.S. officials to continue to engage appropriate Chinese authorities to urge a minimum of a six month delay to the March 15, 2009, effective date. Additionally, they ask them to schedule technical consultations if the delay is accepted and to request this matter be included on the agenda for next month's regular meeting in the WTO on technical barriers to trade.
A copy of the letter to Sec. Vilsack is below:
February 26, 2009
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
We bring to your attention a matter of significant importance to U.S. agriculture exporters regarding our important trade in cotton with the Peoples Republic of China. Cotton is the second largest U.S. agriculture export to China, which in the past five years has totaled 26.2 million bales or 5.7 million metric tons with a total value of $7.8 billion.
Last year, the Chinese Government, announced through its General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), the establishment of a registration system exclusively for imported cotton. The new system lacks transparency and is in clear violation of China's World Trade Organization (WTO) accession agreement. The system will increase transaction costs for imported cotton, depressing demand at a time when the global textile industry is experiencing the largest year-to-year decline in consumption since the Great Depression. The establishment and operation of the registration system will only exacerbate the impact of the economic downturn on the textile trade and encourage reciprocal actions in other markets to raise barriers to trade.
We believe that if the United States government fails to vigorously object to these arbitrary and unnecessary requirements on U.S. cotton exporters, it will open the door to continued attempts by our trading partners to apply such barriers against a wider range of U.S. agricultural commodities.
In order to address this problem in a timely manner, we respectfully request (1) the U.S. Ambassador, Agricultural Counselor and other Embassy officials in Beijing continue to engage appropriate Chinese authorities to urge a minimum of a six month delay to the March 15 effective date; (2) to schedule technical consultations if the delay is accepted; and, (3) the U.S. Government request this matter be included on the agenda for next month's regular meeting in the WTO on technical barriers to trade. We believe this problem can be resolved with constructive dialogue and cooperation from the Chinese Government.
Very truly yours,
U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.)
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)
U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)