Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
China to Sharply Lower Trade Barriers to U.S. Farm Goods
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-Texas) and Ranking Minority Member Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas) said today that China's agreement to join U.S. and European trading partners in the World Trade Organization (WTO) appears to have come on terms favorable to U.S. agricultural goods. While congratulating the work of the Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky, the Agriculture Committee plans a close review of the wording of the U.S.-China accord.
China will slash tariffs on agricultural goods and allow the entry of more U.S. wheat, corn, rice and cotton for sale in China. China will eliminate its own subsidies for exports, which will be of particular help to U.S. cotton and rice. While China will cut duties from an overall average of 22.1 percent, down to 17 percent, the tariffs against agricultural goods will fall more sharply -- down to the 14.5 to 15 percent range. Additionally, China has agreed to reform of tariff rate quotas by allocating a substantial portion of those to private traders.
"This agreement is China's entry ticket to membership in the World Trade Organization partnership, on terms favorable to U.S. farmers and ranchers," said Committee Chairman Combest. "While the Agriculture Committee will carefully review this U.S. - China accord, it appears to be the agreement reached on behalf of agriculture this past April. Under that agreement, China made all the concessions regarding agriculture, making U.S. farmers and ranchers the beneficiaries. We congratulate Ambassador Barshefsky for standing our ground and opening markets for U.S. agriculture."
This agreement is an important step towards an improved trading relationship with China," said Ranking Minority Member Stenholm. "That relationship will be judged in the long term by how successfully these and our other trade agreements with China are implemented and enforced. I salute USTR and USDA for hanging tough on behalf of American agriculture, and urge both agencies to keep up the good work."
Several important steps remain ahead. China must conclude its own negotiations with a number of other WTO members, finish negotiations on accession protocol, and then complete its own domestic procedures for attaining WTO membership.
President Clinton has stated that he will seek approval in Congress of permanent Normal Trade Relations with China.