Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Roberts Urge USTR, USDA to Address Restrictions Imposed on U.S. Beef Imports by China, Japan

Washington, DC – Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the committee’s Ranking Member, today urged U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to work closely together in addressing barriers imposed by China and Japan regarding U.S. beef imports, in a joint letter signed by 39 Senate colleagues. The letter also follows up on and welcomes a pledge made by Ambassador Demetrios Marantis to meet with China and Japan to discuss the restrictions.

“We believe continuous high-level engagement by USTR and USDA is critical to making progress towards ending China and Japan’s unscientific restrictions to U.S. beef products,” the letter states. “To maintain and expand the global market for U.S. beef, there must now be stronger, sustained outreach to China, Japan, and other countries that continue to limit access to our beef.”

The U.S. adopted extraordinarily rigorous safeguards against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), after an occurrence of BSE was discovered in 2003. Despite the conclusion by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that U.S. beef of all ages is safe, Japan still maintains an unscientific ban on U.S. beef over 20 months of age. As a result, U.S. beef exports to Japan remain nearly $1 billion below their pre-2003 levels. Similarly, China has been the fastest growing market for U.S. exports overall during the last decade but remains the only major market completely closed to U.S. beef due to BSE.

“We commend the Administration’s engagement earlier this year with China on greater market access for U.S. beef,” the letter states. “There now needs to be immediate follow up to these discussions in order to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to eliminate unscientific trade barriers to U.S. beef exports.”

The full text of the letter is below.

August 4, 2011

The Honorable Tom Vilsack                                                                        

Secretary of Agriculture                                                                               

U.S. Department of Agriculture                                                

1400 Independence Ave., SW                                                                   

Washington, DC 20250                                                                  

The Honorable Ron Kirk

United States Trade Representative

Executive Office of the President

600 17th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20508

Dear Secretary Vilsack and Ambassador Kirk:

            We write to follow up on the commitment made by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) during the Senate Finance Committee mock markup of the South Korea-U.S. trade agreement (KORUS) on July 7. At the markup, Ambassador Demetrios Marantis pledged to meet with China and Japan regarding their barriers to U.S. beef imports within 120 days. We welcome this commitment and urge USTR and USDA to work closely together to address these barriers as soon as possible.

            We believe continuous high-level engagement by USTR and USDA is critical to making progress towards ending China and Japan’s unscientific restrictions to U.S. beef products. In the case of South Korea, the aggressive and sustained engagement by the Administration and Congress was vital to reopening this market to U.S. beef under thirty months of age in 2008. We appreciate your commitment to work with Korea on a plan for full market access. To maintain and expand the global market for U.S. beef, there must now be stronger, sustained outreach to China, Japan, and other countries that continue to limit access to our beef.

           In response to an occurrence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in 2003, the United States adopted even more rigorous BSE safeguard procedures. These extraordinary precautions led the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to find that U.S. beef of all ages is safe. Despite this finding, Japan still maintains an unscientific ban on U.S. beef over 20 months of age. As a result, U.S. beef exports to Japan remain nearly $1 billion below their pre-2003 levels. Similarly, China has been the fastest growing market for U.S. exports overall during the last decade but remains the only major market completely closed to U.S. beef due to BSE.

We commend the Administration’s engagement earlier this year with China on greater market access for U.S. beef. There now needs to be immediate follow up to these discussions in order to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to eliminate unscientific trade barriers to U.S. beef exports. We look forward to hearing from you on this very important issue.

Sincerely,

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY)

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE)

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Sen. James Risch (R-ID)

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN)

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)

Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD)

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO)

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR)

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