WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk asked Russian leaders to suspend new requirements, announced in Moscow on Friday, that U.S. beef and pork exports to Russia be tested and certified free of the feed additive ractopamine.

The United States Department of Agriculture considers ractopamine safe and does not test for it. The United States exports about $500 million worth of beef and pork to Russia and exports have been steadily increasing this year.

The move came a day after the U.S. Senate repealed the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik restrictions on trade with Russia and the Magnitsky Act, which targets Russian officials deemed by Washington to have violated human rights, but Russian officials denied the ractopamine decision was a politically motivated response to the new restrictions.

The decision by Russian health regulators seemed to have taken U.S. officials by surprise, coming out the same day that USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse reported “a great deal of positive feedback” from Russia after completing a week-long trade mission there.

"The United States is very concerned that Russia has taken these actions, which appear to be inconsistent with its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization,” Vilsack and Kirk said in a joint statement. “The United States calls on Russia to suspend these new measures and restore market access for U.S. beef and pork products.  The United States sought, and Russia committed as part of its WTO (World Trade Organization) accession package, to ensure that it adhered rigorously to WTO requirements and that it would use international standards unless it had a risk assessment to justify use of a more stringent standard. Especially in light of its commitment to use international standards, this is an important opportunity for Russia to demonstrate that it takes its WTO commitments seriously."

When Russia joined the WTO on August 22, 2012 after 18 years of negotiations, it agreed that any food safety barriers it erected to trade would be based on a scientific assessment.

In July, the World Health Organization's Codex Alimentarius, with 186 country members, approved small amounts of the growth-enhancing drug ractopamine, but Russia protested, citing health concerns.


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