Letter to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk - International Trade

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee, today urged U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to quickly address Russia's new import ban on U.S. beef, poultry and turkey -- which would cost the U.S. economy $600 million annually -- as the ban is unfounded, not based on sound science and violates World Trade Organization rules. The trade violation stems from Russia's zero-tolerance policy regarding ractopamine, a feed additive for livestock approved by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Codex Alimentarius Commission, an international organization that sets science-based food safety standards.

Stabenow and Cochran wrote in a letter that "Russia has now banned U.S. beef, pork and turkey imports as it imposes its new zero-tolerance standard. With this trade worth $600 million annually, Russia's standard is an egregious trade barrier with no scientific merit."

"With your swift action and use of all enforcement tools available, it is our sincere hope that the issues surrounding Russia's import ban can be quickly and decisively resolved thereby ensuring a stable and predictable trading environment for U.S. livestock producers and exporters."

The letter, co-signed by a bipartisan group of 33 senators, can be found below.

February 19, 2013

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

Dear Ambassador Kirk:

We write with strong concern regarding efforts by the Russian Federation to restrict imports of beef, pork and turkey from the United States.

On December 7, 2012, Russia announced it would begin enforcing a zero-tolerance standard for trace amounts of ractopamine, an important feed additive for domestic livestock production. This decision contradicts generally accepted scientific conclusions and Russia's obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The imposition of a zero-tolerance standard is inconsistent with the WTO's Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement and is, in practice, an import ban. In a subsequent announcement made late last month, Russia has now effectively banned U.S. beef, pork and turkey imports as it imposes its new zero-tolerance standard. With this trade worth $600 million annually, Russia's standard is an egregious trade barrier with no apparent scientific merit.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of ractopamine in livestock in 2000, over a decade ago. Today, 27 countries, including Japan, South Korea, Australia and Canada, have reached the same conclusion that meat from animals fed this beta-agonist is safe for human consumption. Most notably, on July 6, 2012, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CODEX) adopted maximum residue levels (MRL) for ractopamine, resulting in a scientifically-based, international standard for trace amounts of this feed additive.

The United States must do everything it can to defend its rights in both the WTO and CODEX and prevent non-science-based trading practices from other trading partners, including Russia. Further, we must demonstrate to Russia that its newfound commitment to WTO membership includes adherence to science-based standards, such as the CODEX MRL for ractopamine.

With your swift action and use of all enforcement tools available, it is our sincere hope that the issues surrounding Russia's import ban can begin to be resolved, thereby ensuring a stable and predictable trading environment for U.S. livestock producers and exporters. We look forward to working with you to resolve this critical issue in a timely manner.

Sincerely,

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Mark Udall (D-CO)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
John Boozman (R-AR)
Deb Fischer (R-NE)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Kay Hagan (D-NC)
John Thune (R-SD)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Dan Coats (R-IN)
John Isakson (R-GA)
John Hoeven (R-ND)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)