By Mark Boyd and Mark Gustafson, Co-Chairs
The USMEF Exporter Committee heard reports from USDA, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and USMEF staff on various issues – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and access for U.S. beef in China – at its Nov. 5 meeting at the USMEF Strategic Planning Conference in Tucson.
Sharon Bomer, assistant U.S. trade representative for agricultural affairs and commodity policy, fielded questions from committee members about TPP. She explained that the agreement is expected to create a more streamlined trade process for the countries involved.
“We see it [TPP] as a ‘Rules of the Road’ for how countries should work within the agreement,” Bomer said.
Bomer acknowledged that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks are not progressing as quickly as planned but said negotiations should gain momentum now that an agreement on TPP has been reached.
Paul Spencer, director of the Animal Products Division at the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), and Dr. John Clifford, USDA chief veterinary officer, joined Bomer with updates on market access issues from the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, China and South Africa.
Bomer noted that the Obama Administration notified Congress that it intends to suspend trade benefits for South African agricultural products under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) until South Africa eliminates barriers to U.S. pork, beef and poultry.
Clifford reported that he and other U.S. officials would soon discuss access for U.S. beef with their Chinese counterparts — traceability remains the top issue. He said he is optimistic that progress can be made between the two sides, but is concerned that China might add restrictions that could cause further delays.
Spencer and Bomer answered questions from committee members about Russia, noting that “no high-level discussions” are being held with Russian trade officials. The Russian military intervention in Ukraine, which began in February 2014, prompted a number of governments – including the U.S.– to impose sanctions on Russia, which responded with sanctions of its own and a ban on food imports from the U.S., EU, Canada, Australia and Norway.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) gave an update on the relisting of U.S. pork plants and cold storage facilities by the Chinese government. FSIS representatives also explained Notice 62-15, which deals with replacement export certificates, and updated committee members on the processes involved in utilizing the certificates (note that this proceeding was recently put on hold). They also briefly discussed implementation of the Public Health Information System (PHIS) and its expectation for industry testing to begin by winter 2016.
Officials with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) discussed various animal health access issues, including implementation of the Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) program.
The USDA Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) followed with a briefing on the potential for USDA beef grading on carcasses and certain cuts from U.S. cattle slaughtered in Mexico. Dr. Craig Morris, AMS Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program deputy administrator, told the committee that USDA has provided considerable technical assistance to Mexico in an effort to establish a common beef grading system.
USMEF staff reported progress on the pathogen reduction treatments currently going through the approval process in Japan, followed by an update on the recent visit to the U.S. by Egypt’s deputy chief veterinary officer for an overview of the U.S. beef industry. USMEF staff also gave an update on the progress of the Meat Industry International Stewardship Advisory Council (MIISAC), announcing that it is now being independently funded by member associations and that a new chairman has been elected – Mike Miller, chief operating officer for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).
If you have questions regarding any items in this report, please email Exporter Committee staff liaison Paul Clayton or call him at 303-623-6328.