Today, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) rejected the latest recommendation to establish a generic mandatory label option, an option typically referred to as a “Product of North America” label, should the U.S. lose its World Trade Organization (WTO) appeal regarding country of origin labeling (COOL) in the coming weeks.
Smith Presses Administration to Continue Progress on Trade Agreements, Officials Indicate Clinton would Re-Introduce Fast Track if Votes are Found
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, today encouraged USDA Secretary Dan Glickman and other administration officials to expand upon the gains made in previous international trade agreements hearing to review 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) multilateral negotiations on agricultural trade concerning Europe.
"I do not believe that the 1999 WTO negotiations should be a forum to re-negotiate the gains achieved in the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreement. Instead, we want to move forward with liberalization of worldwide agriculture trade. However, the Administration must review the agreements made in the Uruguay Round to determine whether countries are meeting their commitments and whether the provisions of that Round are working," Smith said.
"U.S. farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world and have been successful because of trade agreements such as the Uruguay Round and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This success has been tempered due to significant barriers to trade, such as import restrictions, non-tariff barriers, and outrageously high export subsidies in some exporting countries," Smith said.
"I want to see improved access for U.S. agricultural exports; I want to see non-tariff trade barriers eliminated; and I want growth and expansion of our agriculture trade because it is good for United States farmers and ranchers and all who contribute to providing food for people of our country. The future of U.S. farmers and ranchers depends in great part on the rules of worldwide agriculture trade. The 1999 WTO negotiations will be the battleground for writing these rules for the 21st century," Smith said.
When asked by Chairman Smith whether President Clinton would reintroduce fast track, Ambassador Peter Scher, Special Trade Negotiator for Agriculture, stated his belief that the President would resubmit legislation this year if there were enough votes in Congress for passage.
"I believe the hearing was a very successful beginning in our preparations for the 1999 WTO negotiations. I'm pleased to see that the Administration understands the importance of agricultural trade to America, and I'm encouraged by its willingness to bring fast track up again if we can find the votes," Smith said of the hearing.
"I think we must encourage an aggressive approach on the part of USDA with regard to trade. If we are to win the full trust and support of farmers and ranchers for trade initiatives, like fast track, we must continue to demonstrate that trade works for agriculture. For example, the Dairy Export Incentives Program must be fully implemented, as provided under the farm bill. And we must let all of Europe know that we expect full implementation of dispute resolution panel decisions on bananas and beef hormones," said Representative Charlie Stenholm (D-TX) Ranking Democrat Member of the Committee.
The Committee on Agriculture will hold a series of four hearings on the 1999 WTO negotiations. Today's hearing was the first of the series, and focused on trade with Europe. Subsequent hearings will review agricultural trade issues with countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District - which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon - in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stenholm represents Texas' Seventeenth Congressional District, a sprawling agricultural district in west central Texas.