WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2013- Russia plans to ban the import of frozen meat and meat products from the United States as of February 11 over the use of the feed additive ractopamine.

Russia's Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service made the decision Wednesday, more than a month after it declared that U.S. beef and pork exports to Russia be tested and certified free of ractopamine.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) spokesperson said the United States is “deeply concerned with Russia's decision” to prohibit all U.S. imports of meat based on a zero tolerance for residues of the feed additive. 

“These actions threaten to undermine our bilateral trade relationship,” according to USDA. “They are not consistent with international standards and appear to be inconsistent with Russia’s WTO commitments.”

USDA considers ractopamine safe and does not test for it. According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), the value of beef exports to Russia totaled $203.7 million and pork exports totaled $202.9 million from January to September, 2012.

“The U.S. is committed to ensuring that the meat and meat products consumed here or exported to consumers around the world are safe and wholesome,” USDA added. “We, therefore, continue to call on Russia to suspend these unjustified measures and restore market access for U.S. beef and pork products.”

Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted that Russia’s World Trade Organization (WTO) membership comes with an obligation to abide by the science-based WTO standards for trade. U.S. agricultural organizations and several Congress members view Russia’s ractopamine requirements as a violation of science-based standards required by the WTO.

In December, the U.S. Senate approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations status as part of Russia’s membership in the WTO. Included in the PNTR legislation is a human rights measure that bans certain Russian violators from receiving U.S. visas or opening U.S. bank accounts.

“It looks like Russia is ready to put up more unjustified, non-scientific barriers to pork and beef from the United States,” Grassley said in his statement.

“There have been concerns about Russia’s non-tariff trade barriers for awhile and, unfortunately, the Administration failed to press hard enough on these issues last year in negotiating Russia’s entry to the WTO,” the senator added. “Russia is an important market for pork and beef producers in Iowa and other parts of the United States. The U.S. Trade Representative needs to take every action possible in response to Russia’s ban.”

When Russia joined the WTO in August 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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