Two US Congressmen have called on the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make full use of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) laws to address issues that have prevented the export of US dairy products into Russia.
In a letter to the US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, representatives Ron Kind and Tim Walz urged the USDA to do all it can to ensure US dairy producers and processors have the opportunity to compete “on a level playing field in the Russian market.”
The letter comes just days after the US House of Representatives, which makes and votes on the approval of federal laws in the US, passed H.R.6156. The bill has now been passed on to the US Senate.
If the bill is approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama, Russia and Moldova will graduate from the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Trade Act of 1974, which affects US trade relations with communist or former-communist states that restrict human rights.
Approval of the bill would permit the establishment of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia and Moldova, and allow the US to take full advantage of Russia’s August 2012 ascension to the WTO.
Level playing field
The Russian dairy market has also been closed to US dairy products for more than two years due to Russian insistence on certain dairy certificate statements and accompanying facility inspection requirements, which the US has previously been unwilling to accept.
In their letter to Secretary Vilsack, Kind and Walz pressed for full use of WTO laws to address Russia’s safety requests.
“When [the bill] is signed into law and the US permanently grants Russia normal trade relations, the United States will be able to use the WTO’s mechanisms to address Russia’s non-science based sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to American dairy exports,” said Walz and Kind.
“We strongly urge you to consider using the WTO’s mechanisms to reopen these markets and ensure that American dairy producers and processors have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field in the Russian market,” they added.
Walz added: “Granting US farmers, ranchers and dairy producers unfettered access to the world’s sixth largest economy, in addition to the full arsenal of WTO trade rules, is a big victory for the future growth and competitiveness of US agricultural exporters,” said Walz.
The bill’s passage through the House of Representatives has previously been welcomed by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC).
NMPF CEO and president, Jerry Kozak said: “NMPF hopes that House action today will help to spur swift action by the Senate to also approve PNTR with Russia so that we can move closer to re-establishing exports of US cheese, butter and other products to benefit of America’s dairy producers.”
“This is a major market with solid opportunities for our industry and it is critical to ensure we have the same access to it that our competitors around the world enjoy,” Kozak added.