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Grassley Sounds Off: Russia Unfairly Bans U.S. Beef and Pork

Just a few months ago, Russia became the 156th member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Obama administration celebrated Russia’s entry as benefiting “U.S. businesses and workers by improving market access for U.S. exports of goods and services and bringing Russia into a system of established, enforceable, multilateral trade rules.”

Now, Russia is planning to block U.S. imports of beef and pork on February 11.  Russia wants to require that the meat be free of the feed additive ractopamine, an additive used by farmers across America in cattle and pork production.  This refusal to accept U.S. meat products over ractopamine appears to be a clear violation of the science-based standards required by the WTO.

Upon joining the WTO, a member country agrees to adhere to the organization’s sanitary and phytosanitary standards for agricultural products and all other items subject to trade.  These standards require that standards set in the name of human health be supported by sound science.  Under the rules, one country cannot place arbitrary barriers on exports, such as a misplaced claim on product safety.

It looks as if Russia is ready to defy its WTO obligations on beef and pork from the United States just months after it accepted the terms of WTO membership.  At this point, Russia has not presented scientific evidence to support its proposed ban, and to the contrary, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined the use of ractopamine in livestock production is safe.

Russia’s non-tariff trade barriers have caused concern for some time.  Unfortunately, the Administration failed to press hard enough on these issues last year in negotiating Russia’s entry to the WTO, despite the urging to do so from many of us in Congress.  Russia is an important market for pork and beef producers in Iowa and other parts of the United States.  U.S. producers deserve fair access to the Russian market.  The U.S. Trade Representative needs to take every action possible in response to Russia’s ban.

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