U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today reported that they are encouraging U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to challenge new duties proposed by Mexico on imported U.S. poultry.
Cochran and Wicker are among 16 Senators who last week sent a letter to Kirk that states the lawmakers' concern with antidumping charges levied by Mexico on U.S. poultry, specifically chicken leg quarters. The Mexican government could move to impose duties ranging from 64 percent to 129 percent on imported U.S. poultry as soon as August.
"The poultry industry is a critical segment of the agriculture economy in Mississippi. The antidumping actions proposed by Mexico are contrary to the open market concept written into the North American Free Trade Agreement. I hope our U.S. Trade Representative will make this case with the Mexican government and preserve market access to poultry produced in Mississippi and other states," said Cochran, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
"It is critical that the Obama Administration protect the interests of Mississippi poultry farmers," said Wicker. "Poultry is a vital commodity to the state, and I hope that this frivolous case will be dropped as soon as possible."
The Senators indicated their desire for Kirk to work with the Mexican government to terminate the antidumping action and to avoid a costly and time-consuming World Trade Organization legal consultation on the case.
The letter to Kirk outlines flaws in the proposed Mexican antidumping case and stresses the importance of the Mexican market to the U.S. poultry industry, noting the nearly $270 million value of U.S. poultry exports to Mexico. It also warns that the antidumping case could affect other U.S. exports to Mexico.
"This action is based on the "average cost of production' and assumes that every part of the chicken should be priced the same, e.g., that the chicken feet have the same value as the chicken breast. This assumption is flawed and concerns us as members from poultry producing states," the Senators wrote.
"The Mexican antidumping action will deprive our poultry industry of the market access provided under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This case sets an ominous example that must not be repeated throughout the protein sector. The same approach could encourage others in Mexico to institute frivolous antidumping actions against our beef, pork, or dairy sectors," the letter to Kirk said.
The letter was spearheaded by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.). In addition to Cochran and Wicker, the correspondence was also signed by Senators: Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey, Jr., (D-Pa.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).
In recent years, Cochran and Wicker have also been critical of efforts by Russia and China to restrict the import of U.S. poultry products.
In 2011, Mississippi produced 765 million broilers, valued at $2.21 billion. The production of broilers, eggs and chickens in 2011 was valued at $2.44 billion, according to the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine.