USW provides country-specific trade comments to USTR
U.S. Wheat Associates recently submitted two reports to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative covering wheat-specific trade issues related to the trade barriers and phytosanitary standards that unnecessarily impede the sale of U.S. wheat in key world markets. The two reports with country-specific summaries were part of a new format requested this year by USTR in place of the single report previously requested under the Trade Act of 1974.
"The new format for these reports makes it easier for USTR and the wheat industry to hone in on technical trade issues related to specific countries," said USW Deputy Director for Policy Shannon Schlecht.
USW submitted the two reports, 2010 National Trade Estimate Report, Foreign Trade Barriers and National Trade Estimates, Sanitary/Phytosanitary and Standards, to USTR last month over a two-week period and are posted on the Trade Policy section of the USW website at www.uswheat.org/whatWeDo/tradePolicy.
Cuba was among the 20 countries discussed in the report on foreign trade barriers submitted on Nov. 18.
"This year, Cuban purchasing authorities have vowed to divert business from the [Untied States] to our trade competitors," the report says. "This means that Cuba will likely purchase most of its wheat from Canada. Export numbers are half of what they should normally be at this point in the marketing year. At today's prices, this means a loss of $50 million for US wheat growers and producers and others involved in the production and export chain."
The USW comments to USTR point to the root of the problem with the Cuba trade: "USW has and continues to promote full trade normalization between the United States and Cuba. We encourage a total lifting of the travel ban for U.S. and Cuban citizens, direct banking, and the elimination of cash upfront payment requirements prior to shipment. We can't afford to lose any more market share to our competitors."
In addition to the negative impact trade sanctions have on U.S. wheat sales to Cuba (and Iran and Sudan), the subject of other comments included:
--Elimination of export subsidies and market-distorting domestic subsidies
--Trade-distorting impact of export state trading enterprises (monopoly sellers) on the industry
--Potential trade disruption should the introduction of biotechnology occur without the implementation of scientific standards for tolerances
--Market access issues including high tariffs and licensing requirements by several countries
--Bilateral and multilateral free-trade agreements important to U.S. competitiveness
--Negative trade impact from travel restrictions
--Vital export credits and food aid.
National trade estimates
In the sanitary/phytosanitary report, USW points out that Brazil maintains SPS requirements for inordinate resources to solve unsubstantiated issues. USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service has repeatedly tried to negotiate with its Brazilian counterparts on the removal of phytosanitary restrictions on U.S. wheat. Currently, Brazil only allows imports of certain wheat classes and excludes shipments from the West Coast ports. Those restrictions have been based primarily on two diseases, flag smut (Urocystis agropyri) and cephalosporium stripe. Flag smut is also present in Argentina, but Brazil allows Argentine imports without restriction. Cephalosporium stripe is unlikely to occur in Brazil and is very unlikely to arrive there in grain shipments.
Among the other phytosaniary issues included in the National Trade Estimates are:
--The need for scientific justification on concerns related to plant diseases
--Regulations for mycotoxins (such as vomitoxin), fungal spore counts, and the need for science in setting maximum levels
--Concerns about inspection and sampling procedures by agencies in importing countries
--Maximum residue levels (MRL) for crop protection products and the approval of new MRLs in foreign countries that would allow U.S. producers to use new products
--Food safety certifications from various countries.
USW is the industry's market development organization working in more than 100 countries on behalf of America's wheat producers. The activities of USW are made possible by producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and through cost-share funding provided by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, visit www.uswheat.org or contact your state wheat commission.