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May 16, 2007

Ranchers and Cattlemen against deal, against Fast Track

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America, May 15, 2007

Peru, Panama Trade Deals Don’t Address Cattle Industry Concerns

Washington, D.C. – Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee (Committee) announced it had reached an agreement with the Administration regarding the Peru and Panama Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that would allow both deals to move forward through Congress. Unfortunately, the Committee included absolutely no language that would address U.S. agricultural concerns – specifically those of the U.S. live cattle industry – and none of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) fact sheets deal with agricultural concerns either.

[the rest of the text after the jump]

The primary objective of the Committee, it appears, was to strengthen environmental and labor
standards in these two FTAs, and future FTAs.

“It is critically important that when Congress and USTR actually change the text of these FTAs that they include language that will serve the U.S. cattle industry,” said R-CALF USA Region VII Director Eric Nelson, who also chairs the group’s International Trade Committee.

“R-CALF members feel strongly that Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or Fast-Track Authority, should not be granted to the President,” Nelson continued. “We want Congress to retain authority to amend specific provisions in trade agreements that would harm the U.S. cattle industry, though the remainder of the agreement might appear to benefit other industries.

R-CALF USA has been working with USTR to seek the following general improvements that are important to the U.S. cattle industry:
1. The classification of cattle and beef as perishable and cyclical items, and considered like/kind products.
2. The establishment of quantity and price safeguards.
3. The strengthening of rules of origin (born, raised and slaughtered).
4. The upward harmonization of import health and safety standards.

“Several years ago, Congress instructed USTR to improve import relief mechanisms to recognize the unique characteristics of perishable and cyclical products, including livestock and meat products,” Nelson pointed out. “The Trade Act of 2002 lists this goal among the principal congressional negotiating objectives for all trade agreements.

“In the Peru FTA, Peru negotiated a safeguard for its imports of U.S. beef, but the U.S. did not obtain any reciprocal safeguards on its imports of beef from Peru, despite the clear instructions from Congress to improve those import relief mechanisms for these products,” he continued. “If Peru were to ramp up its exports to the U.S. and ship more than its quota allocation of beef to the United States, quantity and price safeguards would be the last line of defense to shield U.S. cattle producers from abrupt increases in supplies and declines in prices.

“R-CALF also is concerned that the Peru FTA will grant preferential access to Peruvian beef products even if they are derived from cattle shipped into Peru from third countries – including Brazil with a herd of more than 190 million cattle – which greatly expands the potential supply of cattle that could be slaughtered and exported to the U.S.,” Nelson said. “The U.S. should include in all FTAs a ‘born, raised and slaughtered (BRS) rule of origin’ for beef to ensure that third countries can’t exploit the preferential market access benefits intended for our FTA partners.

“Also of concern is the presence of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in that region, and R-CALF wants to make sure that U.S. import restrictions applicable to FMD-affected countries not be subject to revision,” he commented.

“With each of these elements in place, the potential harm to our domestic cattle industry can be minimized,” Nelson concluded. “These steps also will help build support in the domestic cattle industry for fair and balanced trade, as well as help safeguard the livelihoods of thousands of independent U.S. cattle producers.”

Since 2000, R-CALF USA membership-set policy has been: 1) to oppose all further fast-track trade negotiating authority; 2) to make certain that strong health and safety standards are in place for imported live and processed product; 3) to put international trade policy in the hands of our elected officials in Washington, D.C.; and, 4) to work with groups to facilitate U.S. withdrawal from trade organizations and treaties that usurp the power of Congress or weaken the U.S. Constitution or our national sovereignty.

Note: To view the Committee’s letter to USTR and its changes to the Peru and Panama FTAs, as well as USTR’s fact sheets, please visit the “International Trade” link at www.r-calfusa.com.

# # #

R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, non-profit organization and is dedicatd to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on both domestic and international trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALF USA has more than 60 affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com.

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