Today, Rep. Devin Nunes introduced the Agriculture Trade Facilitation Act, a bill intended to improve the outcome of trade negotiations for American farmers by establishing the overall and principal negotiating objectives of the United States.
"American farmers produce the highest quality dairy products, fruits, vegetables, grains and fibers in the world. In my district alone, famers grow hundreds of different crops -- many of which are exported. These foreign exports are essential to the health of rural America which is why free trade agreements are so important. However, we must remain diligent to protect our nation's capacity to grow abundant food and fiber. This demands an enhanced recognition that for agriculture, removing tariffs is not enough. We need to make certain that non-tariff barriers, such as scientifically dubious sanitary and phytosanitary standards, don't block wholesome American products from competing in the global marketplace," said Rep. Devin Nunes.
Access to foreign markets is critical to American farmers, ranchers, and producers. According to the United States Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (ERS), each $1 billion in U.S. agricultural exports supports approximately 8,400 jobs. From 2008-2010, the value of U.S. agricultural products averaged nearly $107 billion annually. Compared to 1998-2000, when the total value of agricultural exports averaged $51 billion annually, U.S. agricultural exports have more than doubled. However, there are continued reports that non science-based sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures are restricting and acting as non-tariff barriers to trade.
SPS measures are those designed "to protect human, animal or plant life or health" from risks arising from additives, contaminants, pests, toxins, diseases, or disease-carrying and causing organisms in foods, beverages, feedstuffs, animals or plants. SPS measures can take such forms as specific product or processing standards, requirements for products to be produced in disease-free areas, quarantine regulations, certification or inspection procedures, sampling and testing requirements, health-related labeling measures, maximum permissible pesticide residue levels, and prohibitions on certain food additives.
Under the World Trade Organization's Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, SPS measures must be science-based and applied only to the extent necessary and cannot be arbitrary or used to unjustifiably discriminate domestically or against trading partners. The improper use of measures can create substantial, if not complete, barriers to U.S. exports when they are disguised barriers to trade, are not supported by science, or are otherwise unwarranted. In fact, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) continues to assert that SPS "trade barriers prevent U.S. producers from shipping hundreds of millions of dollars worth of goods, hurting farms and small businesses."
The elimination and reduction of unwarranted SPS barriers to trade will increase U.S. agricultural exports and jobs. Moreover, the improper use of SPS barriers can be reduced through achieving and implementing agreements that provide for enhanced harmonization, transparency, equivalency, improved regulatory practices, and more efficient and effective dispute settlement.
"SPS measures are increasingly being used as protectionist tools, nullifying the impact of tariff reductions and blocking market access to American farmers. One very recent and notable example is with poultry exports to Russia. Another relates to India's ongoing ban on U.S. dairy imports. The situation will only get worse as tariffs are further reduced."
"The ongoing Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, which are promising to deliver a 21st Century Free Trade Agreement, present an opportunity for us to make significant progress in improving the international SPS regime. It is absolutely imperative the United States work to secure the best possible SPS provisions," said Rep. Nunes.