By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 24 – U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have announced that U.S. producers are now eligible to ship a larger array of U.S. beef and beef products to Chile. The market opening in Chile follows months of bilateral meetings between officials from the Chilean government, USTR and the USDA. President Obama and Ambassador Kirk visited Chile Monday to meet with Chilean leaders to discuss how the United States can create jobs in America by deepening our economic relationship and expanding exports to South America.

Expanding our market for U.S. beef exports to Chile is an important advance,” said Kirk. “Having just attended the meetings between President Obama and President Pinera in Chile, I know how vibrant and deep our trade relationship is. The commitment of Chile and the United States to work together to promote science-based trade rules while providing our consumers with safe and wholesome foods is a win-win for both countries.”

This action by the government of Chile will provide Chilean consumers with greater access to safe, high-quality U.S. beef,” Vilsack said. “Since day one, the Obama Administration has remained committed to removing barriers to trade, expanding market access for U.S. farmers and ranchers, and lowering tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods. These negotiations were based on a mutual respect for international, science-based standards, and USDA will continue to work with other nations to open their markets to U.S. beef based on the same, internationally-accepted principles.”

The United States exported approximately $6.2 million in beef and beef products to Chile in 2010. Worldwide, the United States exported nearly $4.1 billion of beef and beef products in calendar year 2010, up 32% from 2009. The value of U.S. beef exports for 2010 was on par with beef trade figures preceding 2004, when bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in December 2003 in a cow that had been exported from Canada to Washington State. Since that time, USTR and USDA have worked hard to regain market access for U.S. beef and beef products around the world. Currently, more than 100 markets are open to U.S. beef.

The market expansion in Chile adds to the contribution that U.S. agriculture makes in support of President Obama’s 2010 National Export Initiative (NEI) goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Thursday that the Chile’s decision to open its markets to all ages and all cuts of U.S. beef marks a significant victory for U.S. ranchers and for the American economy. He said increased access to the Chilean market will provide U.S. ranchers with the opportunity to increase exports to the country and build on the $6.2 million that beef exports to Chile generated in 2010. Baucus, who pressed Chile to lift its unscientific restriction, said Chile’s announcement is further indication that the U.S. should insist that its trading partners meet international scientific standards and lift all restrictions on U.S. beef.

“We pressed Chile to open its market to all U.S. beef because our continued economic growth depends on increasing our exports and we can’t allow unscientific barriers to stand in the way,” said Baucus. “Chile’s announcement is proof that holding our trading partners accountable to international scientific standards can produce results that will help our economy grow. We need to continue to put pressure on countries including Korea, China and Taiwan that maintain unscientific restrictions on U.S. beef. Chile’s announcement represents significant progress in opening international markets to U.S. beef and this victory will translate to increased American exports and job creation.”

Last fall, Baucus hosted Chile’s Ambassador Arturo Fermandois in Montana, where they toured a cattle ranch and met with agricultural leaders in the state. Following that visit, Fermandios announced Chile was beginning the regulatory process to remove barriers to U.S. beef. Chile’s announcement that it has fully reopened its market to all cuts and ages of American beef is the culmination of that process.

Baucus recently called for Korea to provide a roadmap to full market access before Congress passes the pending Free Trade Agreement with Korea. He has pushed Taiwan and China to end their unscientific barriers as well.

Chile now joins more than 60 other trading partners that allow full market access to U.S. beef. Prior to today’s announcement, Chile only allowed imports of boneless cuts from cattle less than 30 months of age.

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