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Public Statements

Letter to Ron Kirk, United States Trade Representative for the Office of the United States Trade Representative

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk Wednesday, U.S. Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper (both D-Del.) led a bipartisan group of 19 senators in urging the Office of the United States Trade Representative to resolve longstanding, non-scientifically based policies during Kirk's upcoming meeting with India's senior government leaders.

Since 2006, India's trade policies have not conformed to the scientifically based World Organization for Animal Health standards on the viral disease avian influenza (AI). American poultry producers adhere to these globally recognized standards of food production.

"Despite the United States' track record on AI and the very effective measures in place for AI, India continues to use this non-scientifically based position to prohibit U.S. poultry to access the Indian market," the Senators wrote. "With two of the United States' top poultry markets having been severely disrupted in the past three years, it is especially important that efforts be undertaken to replace them. The National Chicken Council estimates that U.S. poultry exports to India could exceed $300 million annually if appropriate, fair market access was provided in accordance with India's obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization."

"We respectfully request that during your upcoming discussions with the government of India, you strongly explain the important biosecurity measures that have been implemented in the U.S. and that the continued use of non-scientifically based measures to prevent trade is unacceptable."

According to a study released earlier this year by the University of Delaware, poultry production and processing accounts for the largest share of Delaware's $8 billion agriculture economy, at $3.2 billion. Last year, Delaware exported $111.5 million worth of chicken and chicken products across the globe. The industry is a leading employer in Delaware, supporting more than 13,000 jobs in Kent and Sussex County.

In addition to Senators Coons and Carper, the letter was signed by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Daniel Coats (R-Ind.), Joe Manchin, III (D-W.Va.), Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jim Webb (D-Va.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Kay R. Hagan (D-N.C.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-W.Va.), James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Mark. R. Warner (D-Va.)

You can download a PDF of the letter here: http://coons.senate.gov/media/ustr-poultry-india.pdf.

The text of the letter is pasted below:

December 21, 2011

The Honorable Ron Kirk
United States Trade Representative
Office of the United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20508

Dear Ambassador Kirk:

We write to express our concern about India's long-standing restrictive trade policies with respect to poultry and the variety of poultry products from the United States. These non-scientifically based policies are denying our poultry producers and processors access to a market with great economic potential. We are thankful that the U.S. has for years raised concerns over India's trade policies. Given that India's trade barriers remain in place, we respectfully request that you continue to work to resolve this longstanding issue during your upcoming meeting in mid-January with the senior government leadership of India.

As you know, India uses a variety of trade barriers to prohibit the importation of U.S. poultry. One issue involves India's position on the viral disease avian influenza (AI). India's trade policies do not conform to World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) standards and are not scientifically justified. India makes no distinction between low-pathogenic AI and the highly pathogenic AI. India's recently released risk assessment is not consistent with international standards for conducting a risk analysis and does not contain sufficient scientific evidence to support India's AI restrictions.

The U.S., in cooperation with the major poultry-producing states, has one of the most comprehensive and rigorous programs in the world to prevent, control, and eradicate AI. Few, if any, countries have in place the stringent biosecurity measures and controls to prevent AI from becoming a problem to poultry and, more importantly, to the human population. The U.S. has set the gold standard on this issue and has a track record on AI that is unsurpassed around the world. Despite the United States' track record on AI and the very effective measures in place for AI, India continues to use this non-scientifically based position to prohibit U.S. poultry to access the Indian market.

With two of the United States' top poultry markets having been severely disrupted in the past three years, it is especially important that efforts be undertaken to replace them. The National Chicken Council estimates that U.S. poultry exports to India could exceed $300 million annually if appropriate, fair market access was provided in accordance with India's obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Accordingly, we respectfully request that during your upcoming discussions with the government of India, you strongly explain the important biosecurity measures that have been implemented in the U.S. and that the continued use of non-scientifically based measures to prevent trade is unacceptable.

We look forward to working with you on this very important issue and thank you for your full and careful attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Senator Christopher A. Coons
Senator Johnny Isakson
Senator Thomas R. Carper
Senator Saxby Chambliss
Senator Barbara A. Mikulski
Senator Thad Cochran
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
Senator Daniel Coats
Senator Joe Manchin, III
Senator Richard G. Lugar
Senator Tom Harkin
Senator Rob Portman
Senator Jim Webb
Senator John Boozman
Senator Kay R. Hagan
Senator Jeff Sessions
Senator John D. Rockefeller, IV
Senator James M. Inhofe
Senator Mark R. Warner


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