Expanding Trade, Eliminating Export Barriers for Agriculture to be Subject of June 11 Hearing
The House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee will hold a hearing June 11 on the benefits of expanding U.S. agriculture trade and eliminating barriers to U.S. exports. Subcommittee Chairman Devin Nunes indicated that the hearing is part of an effort to build support for legislation granting trade promotion authority, which “includes robust and expanded provisions to ensure that our exporters compete on a level playing field around the world.”
A subcommittee press release states that the U.S. is already the world’s leading agriculture exporter, setting a record in 2013 with $144.1 billion in food and agriculture exports and enjoying a trade surplus in this sector of almost $40 billion. These exports support about one million jobs, including workers that further process agricultural commodities into value-added products and those involved in the development, sale, financing and distribution of agricultural exports.
At the same time, the press release notes, U.S. agriculture exports continue to face barriers to foreign markets. While some of the more traditional barriers have decreased over the past several years, many countries still maintain prohibitively high tariffs and strict import quotas. These include Japan and Canada, whose markets the U.S. is having a difficult time opening through the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. In addition, the press release states, U.S. agriculture exports are facing more non-tariff barriers that are difficult to identify and address. These often consist of sanitary and phytosanitary measures that are “supposedly implemented to protect human, animal, or plant health and safety … [but] are all too frequently disguised protectionism.” The press release cites restrictions on the use of generic food names by designating them as geographical indications as another barrier that can force U.S. agriculture exporters to “abandon markets or product names they have used for years.”
While the World Trade Organization, free trade agreements and bilateral discussions have addressed many barriers to U.S. agriculture exports, the press release adds, there are a number of opportunities to make additional progress. These include the TPP and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, where parties are seeking to establish “ “WTO-plus” obligations, as well as the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement concluded last December and the Trade in Services Agreement currently under negotiation. U.S. Trade Representative and Department of Agriculture officials should also “make the most of bilateral discussions and international fora to press trade partners to tear down their unjustifiable import barriers.”