Taking action against protectionist measures by Russia that are harming Missouri agriculture exports and U.S. job growth, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill has joined a bipartisan group of Senators to call on President Obama to pressure Russia on its arbitrary and non-scientific standards for imports, ahead of Russia's possible admittance to the World Trade Organization (WTO) later this summer.
"Trade has to be a two-way street," McCaskill said. "It makes no sense for Missouri's farmers to have their livelihoods threatened because of ridiculous Russian trade rules, all while Russia tries to join the international trade community and access more of the American market."
In the last several years, Russia has lowered its quota on U.S. pork imports and has delisted a large number of U.S. pork plants from eligibility to export their products to Russia. Russia has also used arbitrary and non-scientific standards on sanitation to limit and even halt U.S. pork and poultry imports. U.S. beef producers are concerned that these unfair standards could be applied to beef exports as well.
"Every effort should be made to lower these unjustifiable barriers hurting U.S. farmers," the letter to President Obama reads.
At the same time Russia has engaged in these unfair practices, the Russian government has also made a push to become a formal member of the World Trade Organization, a trade body designed to create standardized trade practices and settle international trade disputes. McCaskill's letter urges President Obama to address this issue prior to allowing Russia to join the WTO.
McCaskill's letter to the administration follows a complaint last year to the United States Trade Representative on the same issue, and appears below:
President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Obama:
As Congress is faced with a decision of whether or not we grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to Russia, there are a number of issues left to be resolved. However, we want to raise a particular issue with you that is important to U.S. farmers and ranchers. Among the outstanding issues yet to be addressed adequately is Russia's failure to bring its practices into compliance with unambiguous WTO sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards with respect to imports of meat and poultry products from the United States.
We know you understand the importance of beef, pork, and poultry to the U.S. and Russia trade relationship. Last year, U.S. meat and poultry exports collectively ranked second only to aircraft engines in total U.S. export value to Russia. We appreciate our trade officials' efforts in obtaining strong tariff and quota access provisions from Russia in the accession talks.
However, U.S. meat and poultry exports have been steadily falling in recent years due to Russia's non-science based sanitary measures. Russia's restrictions are numerous and range from the unjustifiable de-listing of U.S. meat processing facilities to arbitrary SPS actions that lack scientific justification to limit or even halt poultry and meat imports. Judging by Russia's past and current practices on SPS issues, we lack confidence that Russia will all of a sudden treat U.S. pork and poultry products equitably upon entry into the WTO. Furthermore, while U.S. beef does not currently face the challenges U.S. pork and poultry are dealing with, given Russia's track record on U.S. pork and poultry, we have little reason to believe U.S. beef won't eventually face its own issues with non-science based SPS measures instituted by Russian officials.
Officials in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Agriculture are well acquainted with the Russian measures we are referring to, and they appreciate the fact Russia's approach is not supported by science. Our trade officials must keep up the pressure on Russia to lower these non-science based SPS barriers, and urge Russia to take these steps prior to formal entry into the WTO. If we are not able to adequately address the SPS issues, it will undermine the commitments we obtained on tariffs and quotas.
We ask that you direct our trade officials to continue every effort to obtain firm, science-based commitments from Russia on the outstanding SPS issues prior to their formal entry into the WTO. The commitments we are asking for from Russia are reasonable and achievable and are within the scope of the type of commitments made to the United States by both China and Vietnam in the context of their accessions to the WTO. In addition, we urge you to address these issues with President Putin at your earliest opportunity.
We hope you will agree every effort should be made to lower these unjustifiable barriers hurting U.S. farmers, and that it should happen prior to Russia's formal entry into the WTO. We stand behind our farmers and products they produce, and they deserve to be treated equitably by our trading partners. While this is only one of many issues that needs to be addressed by Russia, it is a key issue. If it were resolved in a satisfactory manner it would certainly be a crucial step forward in our trade relationship with Russia.
McCaskill's Fight for Missouri's Farmers and Ranchers
Claire McCaskill has consistently fought to ensure Missouri's farm and ranch families have the resources they need to succeed, and to prevent and overturn unreasonable rules and regulations on producers.
McCaskill delivered a victory for rural communities, successfully forcing the U.S. Labor Department to withdraw proposed rules that would affect the ability of young adults to work on family farms and ranches.
McCaskill helped lead a bipartisan group of Senators in successfully demanding an exemption to allow the transportation of all farm supplies from any distribution point to a local farm retailer or to the consumer during planning and harvest seasons.
McCaskill confronted the Environmental Protection Agency in opposition to proposed rules over farm dust, forcing the EPA to abandon any such rules.