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US meat leaders join forces against Philippine law

By Melodie Michel , 02-Feb-2012
Last updated on 02-Feb-2012 at 15:55 GMT

American meat industry associations have asked agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack to take action against what they think is an unfair trade deal with the Philippines.

In a joint letter, the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), the National Meat Association (NMA), the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Meat Institute (AMI) suggested that the Administrative Order 22 (AO 22) regulating refrigeration for imported meat had unfairly affected trade between the two countries.

AMI vice-president of international trade Bill Westman told GlobalMeatNews: “We joined other meat associations in sending a letter to Secretary Vilsack, expressing concern over AO 22 passed by the Philippine government, which mandates the refrigeration of chilled, frozen or thawed meat in Philippine markets, while exempting freshly slaughtered meat (‘warm meat’) from refrigeration requirements.

“The exemption from refrigeration requirements provided to freshly slaughtered pork, originating entirely from the Philippines, has no basis in science, and inherently discriminates against imported product that is predominantly frozen or thawed. We also have concerns that the Philippine government seems to have limited imports of pork and beef recently for no apparent reason, and recently implemented ‘test and hold’ requirements for imported meat products, again for no explained reason and seems to have no basis in science.”

“So far we have not received a response from Secretary Vilsack, but we hope to resolve these issues to enhance this important trade relationship,” Westman added.

A spokesperson for USMEF said: “The concern in the US is that AO 22 applies different standards to frozen, refrigerated, and thawed producers versus freshly slaughtered or ‘warm’ meat. Essentially this means that it discriminates against imported products – not just those from the US. The US government has also provided scientific data to Philippine regulators to show that the decision is not based in science.”

The NPPC confirmed that a joint letter had been signed in December, adding that the Philippines stopped issuing Veterinary Quality Certificates (VCQ) for the importation of meat in November 2011, which resulted in a 28% decrease in US export volumes to the country. “The Philippines’ refusal to issue the VQC acted as an effective import ban,” an NPPC representative said.

GSP exclusion

Newspaper reports suggested that the letter contained a petition to remove the Philippines from the list of regions receiving Generalised System of Preference (GSP), a programme granting developing countries duty-free shipments to the US on certain commodities.

The NPPC denied the petition, but suggested that the trade relationship between the two countries needed to be a two-way street. “There wasn’t a petition, but the letter mentions that the Philippines receives GSP and wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. Subtle hint that if it wants those things, it needs to resolve the AO 22 issue,” the NPPC spokesperson told GlobalMeatNews.

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