Smith, Agriculture Committee members push open markets in New Zealand, Australia: Trade Mission Works With Eye Toward 1999 WTO Agriculture Negotiations
WASHINGTON, D.C. - With new world agriculture trade talks on the horizon in 1999, the House Committee on Agriculture, led by Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR), has reaffirmed the importance of reducing trade barriers and ecouraging U.S. agricultural exports in trade talks with officials in New Zealand and Australia.
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, leading trade delegations to Chile, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, Thailand, and the Philippines, and generating tens of millions of dollars in benefits to American agriculture. From November 30 to December 7, the agriculture delegation, which consists of 10 Members of Congress, visited New Zealand, traveling to Australia from December 8 to December 16.
"I'm delighted with our success in New Zealand and Australia, and I'm convinced that officials in both countries not only recognize and agree with our desire to reduce barriers to agricultural trade, but will act accordingly. New Zealand and Australia are not only warm friends, but they are very aggressive competitors. They recognize that free trade has to be fair trade if farmers and ranchers in all our countries are to prosper," Smith said.
"The 1999 World Trade Organization talks on agriculture are the next great opportunity to secure real, lasting reductions in barriers to agricultural trade. As we prepare for those negotiations, it's critical that all countries adopt policies that respect not just the benefits of trade, but the responsibilities, as well. We want to make sure that our trading partners practice what they preach, and I believe New Zealand and Australia are more inclined to do so as a result of our talks," Smith said.
In New Zealand, the congressional delegation stressed access to New Zealand for U.S. salmon, as well as steps to improve access for U.S. poultry, pears, tangerines, and avocados. In Australia, the delegation sought assurances that U.S. requests for access to the Australian market for U.S. fruits, nuts, pork, and poultry will not be required to "start from scratch" under the new Australian risk assessment system. Smith said the congressional delegation would continue their dialogue with New Zealand and Australian officials on these topics.
The trade mission to New Zealand and Australia wraps up a busy and successful year for the Agriculture Committee. For the first time since 1978, the Committee crafted a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's agricultural research programs (H.R. 2534), ushering the measure through the full House of Representatives in early November. The Committee successfully tackled long-standing and contentious public resource management issues, bringing a broad range of congressional interests together to assure House passage of a public lands grazing bill, The Forage Improvement Act of 1997 (H.R. 2493), and Committee passage of a forest health bill, The Forest Recovery and Protection Act (H.R. 2515). In addition, the Committee held numerous hearings on civil rights issues in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department's response to the Government Performance and Results Act, and passed a measure (H.R. 1000) denying food stamp benefits to prisoners.
Smith was joined on the trade mission to New Zealand and Australia by Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the Republican Conference Chairman, Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), Rep. Bill Barrett (R-NE), Rep. Tom Ewing (R-IL), Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), Rep. Gary Condit (D-CA), Rep. Eva Clayton (D-NC), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN).