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Chairman Reichert Opening Statement: “Expanding U.S. Agriculture Trade and Eliminating Barriers to U.S. Exports”

June 14, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA) delivered the following opening statement at today’s Trade Subcommittee hearing entitled “Expanding U.S. Agriculture Trade and Eliminating Barriers to U.S. Exports.”

Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Good morning. The Subcommittee will come to order. Welcome to the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee hearing on Expanding U.S. Agriculture Trade and Eliminating Barriers to U.S. Exports. Before hearing from our witnesses, I’d like to make a few points.

“The United States is and must remain the world’s leading agriculture exporter. We excel at producing and exporting a wide variety of agriculture products. For example, my home state of Washington is a leading exporter of fruit, vegetables, and wheat. If our agriculture sector is to continue to grow and be a source of prosperity and jobs, we must be able to sell to the world’s expanding markets.

“In addition, agriculture exports benefit both rural and urban America. It is well-known that America’s farmers and ranchers increasingly depend on expanding exports. However, less well-known is the fact that two-thirds of the jobs supported by agriculture exports are outside of farming. These jobs are in areas as diverse as transportation, financial services, and biotechnology research. Moreover, producers of further processed agricultural products, such as Washington State’s world famous breweries and wineries, are important job creators.

“This is why more needs to be done to tear down tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. agriculture. Washington State fruit and vegetable exporters on average face tariffs of over 50 percent when they try to sell abroad. And non-tariff barriers are becoming an even greater problem for our farmers and ranchers. USTR and USDA have been successful in fighting against many of these barriers, such as Indonesia’s non-tariff barriers on horticulture imports, but many remain. For example, I am particularly concerned about the World Health Organization’s attempt to impose restrictions on dairy products for young children that have no basis in science. In addition, the EU’s restrictions on the use of generic food names by improperly designating them as geographical indications remain a significant problem.

“Trade agreements are an effective tool to lower these barriers and open markets for America’s agriculture exports. Even though we just implemented the Colombia and Korea free trade agreements a few years ago, U.S. agricultural exporters to those countries are already seeing triple-digit percentage growth for some products.

“The TPP agreement also holds great promise. It would eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs and quotas for agricultural exports to the fastest growing region in the world. I am particularly pleased that TPP would establish enforceable, ‘WTO-plus’ obligations to ensure that SPS measures are not used as hidden protectionism, while not diminishing in any way the ability of the United States to guarantee the safety of imported food. TPP’s provisions on biotechnology and preventing the abuse of geographical indications are also important.

“However, trade agreements must be done right and must be fully implemented and enforced to benefit America’s agricultural producers. For example, this means that Canada simply cannot go back on its commitments in TPP and NAFTA and limit imports of U.S. dairy products through protectionist regulatory changes, as it is proposing. Likewise, the Administration must also work with the other TPP countries, as well as Congress and stakeholders, to develop plans as to how those countries will comply with TPP’s obligations on SPS measures and other agriculture-related areas. This will be essential to getting Congressional support for the agreement, in addition to resolving other outstanding issues.

“The negotiation of a trade agreement with the EU holds a lot of promise for agriculture exports, but it must be a comprehensive, high standards agreement. That means knocking down the EU’s 30 percent average agricultural tariff and forcing the EU to remove its countless non-tariff barriers on U.S. agricultural products. The fact that the United States has a significant agriculture trade deficit with the EU but a large agriculture trade surplus with the rest of the world shows that the burden lies with the EU to open up its market.”