The National Pork Producers Council, in a letter to President Obama is asking the administration to “slow the WTO accession process” for the Russian Federation until US pork plants are relisted and Russia signs an “equivalence” agreement with the United States.
Over the past year, Russia has “delisted” or failed to relist 34 US pork production, processing and storage facilities, meaning 40-50% of all US pork production is ineligible for export to the country.
Russia did not identify any health or sanitary reasons for its actions, which are contrary to obligations contained in a 2006 side agreement that is part of World Trade Organization bilateral negotiations between Russia and the United States. The agreement established specific criteria and methods for Russian approval of US pork plants.
The actions also are inconsistent with the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement, which requires WTO trading partners to recognise the SPS measures of other countries as equivalent to their own. (Russia does not adhere to the WTO principle of equivalence and approves US meat facilities on a plant-by-plant basis.)
The US government and the US pork industry have demonstrated to Russian government officials the effectiveness of the US pork plant inspection system in ensuring a high level of product safety.
“If Russia wants to join the WTO, it needs to play by the rules and stop its blatant actions to restrict US pork,” said NPPC President Don Butler. “US pork plants produce the safest product in the world, and they are inspected by the US Department of Agriculture. Russia should accept our inspection system as being at least as good as its system.”
In a letter to the president, NPPC and 31 state pork organisations urged the Obama administration to press Russia to relist all US pork facilities as a condition for US approval of its accession to the WTO. The organisations also urged the president to withhold Permanent Normal Trade Relations status from Russia until the country recognizes the US plant inspection system as equivalent to its system.
Russia is a top destination for US pork. Since the United States and Russia signed a 2005 agreement establishing quotas with low tariffs for US pork entering Russia, pork exports to the country have increased by nearly 560% to $476 million in 2008. That made Russia the No. 5 market for US pork last year.