WASHINGTON, D.C. - Oregon Congressman Bob Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, has urged President Clinton to discuss non-tariff trade barriers to U.S. Agriculture with Chilean President Eduardo Frei during Frei's upcoming visit to the United States.
Fresh on the heels of a trade mission to consider fast-track negotiating authority for folding Chile into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other issues, and following meetings with Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty, the Clinton Administration's point man on South American trade, Smith urged Clinton to press Frei on non-tariff barriers to U.S. wheat, beef, poultry, and fruits and vegetables.
Smith, who delivered a letter to Clinton to McLarty in a meeting on Tuesday, February 11, has reserved judgment on adding Chile or other South American nations to NAFTA pending Agriculture Committee hearings and absent a more visible Chilean willingness to drop non-tariff barriers to American agricultural exports. Smith has indicated that reducing trade barriers and promoting agricultural exports will be a principal function of the Agriculture Committee in the 105th Congress, his first as Chairman.
"There is no question that the economic progress Chile has made is evident and that country's adherence to free market principles and a strong private sector is admirable. Chile is to be congratulated for its remarkable progress," Smith wrote President Clinton.
"However, Chile bans several United States agriculture products due to what appear to be non-tariff barriers. United States wheat, beef, poultry, and many fruits and vegetables are prohibited from entry into Chile. Access to the markets of our trading partners is essential and one of the basic elements agreed to in the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade," Smith wrote.
"I hope you will raise these issues with President Frei during his visit to the United States. American agriculture is successful because of the productivity of our farmers and ranchers. Exports are the future of American agriculture. However, it does not matter how productive our producers are if market access is denied," Smith concluded.
The complete text of Smith's letter to Clinton follows this release.
Chile's President Frei visits the United States late this month.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which includes the agricultural regions of eastern, southern, and central Oregon, in the U.S. House of Representatives.