Agricultural, food organizations press Congress to battle trade barriers

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2013 - A coalition of agricultural and food organizations led by the National Pork Producers Council urged Congress today to establish criteria for revoking a country's tariff-free access to the U.S. market if it fails to give U.S. products treatment consistent with international trade rules.

The coalition also weighed in on renewing beneficial trade treatment for African nations that restrict U.S. imports.

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In a letter sent today to lawmakers, the coalition pointed out that “barriers to U.S. exports in [Generalized System of Preferences] beneficiary countries are widespread and are often in flagrant violation of international obligations.”

The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) offers tariff-free treatment on many products from developing countries. Last year, 130 nations received such benefits on about 5,000 products shipped to the United States. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is similar to GSP. Congress is set to extend AGOA, which expires in 2015, and to renew GSP, which expired at the end of July.

“The fact that these countries may maintain restrictions on U.S. goods while benefitting from unilateral preferential treatment for their products in the U.S. market - and with little apparent concern about losing those tariff benefits - is clearly inconsistent with the intent of Congress, and we believe this must change,” the coalition wrote.

In a separate letter to Congress, the coalition stated its strong opposition to a long-term or permanent extension of AGOA.

Either extension, said the coalition, would remove any incentive for beneficiary nations to move toward reciprocal trade relationships with the United States. A number of African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, have non-tariff trade barriers to U.S. goods, most of which violate World Trade Organization (WTO) trade rules, according to the coalition.

In extending AGOA, the coalition is urging lawmakers to require, at a minimum, that beneficiary countries “refrain from erecting blatantly protectionist and WTO-incompatible barriers to our products.”

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