House Ag Trade Delegation Visits Mexico, Requests U.S. Flexibility on Sanitary, Phytosanitary Concerns

Apr 7, 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Continuing it's effort to reduce trade barriers and open new markets for American farm products, the House Committee on Agriculture, led by Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR), traveled to Mexico last week, seeking Mexico's understanding and flexibility on sanitary and phytosanitary concerns.

As a result, in a letter today, the Members have asked President Bill Clinton to recognize the state of Sonora as hog cholera free and the Mexicali Valley as free of Karnal bunt fungus. In return, they said, the United States should expect similar flexibility toward U.S. products by Mexico.

"It's important that we meet our trading partners face to face, so that they can hear a frank, open account of our trade concerns. At the same time, we have an obligation, if we intend to make any real progress, to hear their concerns, as well. We are persuaded that fact the Mexicans have a strong case in Sonora and the Mexicali Valley, and we should recognize that if we expect flexibility on these issues from them," said Smith, who raised concerns on behalf of Oregon fruits, wheat, and cattle.

In addition, Smith thanked Mexico for opening its markets to U.S. cherry imports and stressed regionalization as the key to breaking down sanitary and phytosanitary concerns.

"In meetings with Mexico's Secretaries of Agriculture (SAGAR) and Commerce (SECOFI), Mexican congressional counterparts, and Mexican agribusiness leaders, the delegation emphasized the U.S. desire that Mexico improve market access by eliminating sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to trade. The Members concluded that both sides have great expectations for NAFTA to improve agricultural trade. Currently, agricultural trade between Mexico and the United States is $8.5 billion, with a $2 billion surplus to the United States," the Members wrote to Clinton.

"The delegation recognizes that in the spirit of international cooperation there are steps the U.S. government can take in working toward realizing the goal of improving trade among NAFTA signatories. In particular, concerning Mexico, understanding that health and safety concerns have been addressed, the delegation requests the Administration recognize, as soon as possible, the State of Sonora as hog cholera free and the Mexicali Valley free of Karnal bunt. This will allow the import of Sonoran pork products and Mexicali wheat into the United States," the Members wrote.

"These actions taken by the United States would demonstrate to Mexico our willingness to continue working toward solving difficulties both sides have encountered in fulfilling our obligations under NAFTA. The United States should expect similar flexibility toward U.S. products by Mexico," the Members concluded.

Smith, who represents Oregon's Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, has made opening markets for American agricultural exports the Agriculture Committee's highest priority in the 105th Congress.