USTR reports identify progress in reducing trade barriers

Published on: Apr 1, 2013

U.S. food and agricultural exports reached an all-time high in 2012 at over $145 billion, an increase of $4 billion over 2011, according to the U.S. Trade Representative. Acting United States Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis sent three reports to President Obama and to Congress detailing significant accomplishments that the Obama Administration has achieved in reducing or removing foreign government barriers to U.S. exports.

In addition to describing progress made over the past year, the National Trade Estimate (NTE) Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, the Report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Barriers to Trade and the Report on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) describe current barriers to U.S. exports and detail how the Administration is continuing to work on addressing these barriers so that U.S. exports can continue to grow and support more jobs for American workers.

In its fourth annual Report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Report), USTR outlined actions the trade arm has taken to identify and remove barriers of U.S. food and agricultural goods.  SPS measures are rules and procedures that governments use to ensure that foods and beverages are safe to consume and to protect animals and plants from pests and diseases. USTR explained many SPS measures are "fully justified, but too often governments cloak discriminatory and protectionist trade measures in the guise of ensuring human, animal, or plant safety."

Among many other efforts, U.S. negotiators successfully removed specific SPS barriers in El Salvador, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan to exports of U.S. beef. An USTR fact sheet noted that the department expects that the combination of these market openings will increase U.S. beef and beef product exports by hundreds of millions of dollars from the more than $5.5 billion of these products that were exported in 2012.

The Administration worked with the Taiwan authorities to adopt and implement in August 2012 a maximum residue limit (MRL) for the feed additive ractopamine that may be found in beef.  Following the implementation of the MRL and labeling, monthly shipments of U.S. beef to the Taiwan market more than doubled from $2 million to $5 million per month and remain at record levels, USTR said.

The administration also helped open the European Union (EU) market to exports of beef treated with lactic acid (a pathogen reduction treatment); resolved barriers to U.S. exports of rough (paddy) rice and poultry products to Colombia; improved market access for U.S. cherries entering Korea; and gained access into China for certain pears grown in the United States.

The Report on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) addresses unwarranted or overly burdensome standards that make it difficult for American manufacturers to sell their products abroad. In 2012, the Administration successfully addressed several of the TBT barriers identified in the previous year’s report. Addressing these barriers should make it easier for U.S. products to meet these trading partners’ standards and access their markets.

For example, the Administration’s work with Costa Rica and El Salvador to eliminate a burdensome and unnecessary certification requirement will facilitate exports of processed meat products into these markets. In addition, we achieved an agreement with Brazil on certification requirements for meat processing facilities and meat products that maintains access for U.S. exports.