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Test EVERY Cow in the Food Chain

Test EVERY Cow in the Food Chain
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

USDA "washing" our meat in hopes that the EU will "buy it"

USTR vows to expand meat trade by enforcing rules
Fri May 22, 2009 11:46am EDT

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government wants to boost meat trade by tougher enforcement of trade agreements, Trade Representative Ron Kirk said on Friday, vowing to work to lift technical, standards-based barriers curbing U.S. meat exports.

The United States stands to gain more markets for beef and pork by working to ease restrictions on meat that are based on unjustified concerns about the H1N1 flu virus, mad cow disease, and other technical issues than it would by inking more small trade deals, Kirk told the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

"We can open up market access by stronger enforcement of our existing rules," Kirk said. "In this challenging economic climate, our partners simply have to play by the rules."

Last year, U.S. beef trade was worth more than $3.6 billion and pork trade more than $4.6 billion, Kirk noted.

But the U.S. meat trade has been hurt by high grain costs at a time when consumers around the world are cutting back on buying expensive cuts of meat.

The strength of the U.S. dollar compared with currencies in major importing nations like Mexico, South Korea and Russia has also priced U.S. meat out of some markets.

The industry also has been plagued by barriers based on sanitary and phytosanitary concerns about human and animal health, which scientists and trade bodies have called unjustified.

"It is absolutely a priority ... to make sure that our good, safe meat products are not frozen out of international markets because of myths, because of anything unrelated to sound science," Kirk said.

Bans on U.S. meat by more than a dozen countries following the outbreak of the new flu virus are unfair and have jeopardized as much as $900 million in annual U.S. exports, Kirk said.

Russia is restricting U.S. meat trade with measures not based on international standards, Kirk said, noting the "arbitrary delisting" of U.S. plants during the past year.

He also said too many countries continue to have restrictions on U.S. beef after the United States reported its first case of mad cow disease in 2003, pointing to Japan, Taiwan, China and Hong Kong.

"Our administration is currently reviewing all of these trade-related measures that have been put in place by these governments, and seeing if we can't work with them to try to resolve some of those and open up some of those important markets" he said.

Kirk pointed to a recent agreement on beef trade with the European Union as an example of how the United States can work to pragmatically seek market access for farm goods.

The two trading partners have fought for more than 20 years about the safety of beef raised with growth hormones -- a common practice in the United States that is not accepted by the European Union.

The four-year beef deal sees the U.S. pulling back from a threat to apply new sanctions to EU products in exchange for a duty-free quota for beef raised without growth hormones.

Kirk acknowledged the agreement does not solve the outstanding disagreement about hormones, or the use of washes used by U.S. beef processors to reduce pathogens like e.coli -- another practice not approved by EU regulators.
But the deal gives the EU time to approve the washes and the United States time to make progress negotiating the long-term issue of beef hormones, Kirk said.

"If not, we always reserve the right to go back to the WTO," Kirk said, referring to the long-standing battle over the issue at the World Trade Organization.

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