Citing arbitrary and capricious trade barriers instituted by Brazil against U.S. wheat, the industry's export development organization today urged the U.S. government to take immediate action. The exhortation by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) follows notification that Brazil has stopped accepting U.S. wheat imports.
In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, USW officials "strongly and vehemently" protest Brazil's action and urge immediate action on the matter.
In stopping the imports, Brazilian government officials cite an unsubstantiated phytosanitary concern with wheat nematodes, a condition not seen in U.S. wheat for decades.
"Brazil has an increasingly long history of arbitrarily raising these barriers," explained USW president Alan Tracy, "even after we have worked with them and provided them ample scientific criteria to address any real issues. Now they have evidently reneged on an agreement they made last October, with Secretary Glickman, when they agreed to re-open its market to imports of U.S. hard red spring wheat and soft red winter wheat."
Even while "re-opening" the market, Tracy points out, "with no scientific basis or even explanation, Brazil arbitrarily banned wheat from six western states and has established barriers against wheat originating out of all but eastern U.S. ports."
"We were willing to give the Brazilian government the benefit of the doubt through these many years, but enough is enough," declared USW chairman Bruce Hamnes, a wheat producer from Minnesota. "There is an established global system, set up through the World Trade Organization, for dealing with phytosanitary issues, and Brazil is not living up to its agreement with the WTO."
Brazil banned U.S. wheat imports in December 1996, arguing phytosanitary problems. During that marketing year, U.S. market share in Brazil was about 16, or 807 thousand metric tons (TMT), including 679 TMT hard red winter, 42 TMT hard red spring, and 86 TMT soft red winter. In March 1999, the Brazilian government allowed the import of US HRW wheat exported from the U.S. Gulf and Mississippi river ports, with all other classes and ports remaining banned. Since then, however, Brazil has continued to set up trade barriers citing a variety of reasons.