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US calls for rapid response on agriculture trade barriers

By Carina Perkins , 13-Mar-2013

US agriculture experts have called for Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators to ensure that any agreement includes a rapid response mechanism (RRM) to address sanitary and phyto-sanitary trade impediments and technical barriers to trade.

The Food and Agriculture Task Force of the Business Coalition for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is co-chaired by the American Meat Institute, conveyed its support for an RRM in comments submitted to the the upcoming President’s Export Council Meeting, which will include discussions on the ongoing TPP negotiations.

The coalition said it worked with a range of stakeholders from the US agriculture sector and had found “strong and wide-ranging” support for the inclusion of a RRM in the TPP agreement.

“The concept is at the forefront of the trade facilitation priorities of US agricultural trade interests who are considering government policies and programs that affect US trade performance; ways to promote export expansion; and who work to provide for the resolution of trade-related problems,” it said.

Pointing out that US food and agriculture exports frequently faced delays as a result of sanitary and phyto-sanitary trade impediments (SPS) and technical barriers to trade (TBT), with some shipments prevented from arriving at their destination altogether, the coalition said: “These actions by governments often lack transparency, predictability and timely mitigation. Unwarranted costs and significant impediments to safe and secure supply chains often result.

“Short- and long-term harm to important trade flows that support global food and economic security while benefiting consumers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, transporters and labour can be prevented and reduced with improved capacity to manage actions by SPS and TBT administrative entities.”

The coalition added that while the industry can petition its government to use the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute mechanism to address unfair actions, the process is costly and time-consuming.

“Trade agreements offer an opportunity to provide industry with timely, transparent action by governments that can serve to enhance risk management and market efficiencies, reduce trade friction and avoid WTO disputes,” it said.

It called for two specific elements to be included in the RRM mechanism: a process of immediate detailed notification to the exporter or importer of risk detection, assessment and management measures; and an expediated review at the request of the importer or exporter, which would be conducted by neutral experts from TPP countries and provided within 15 days.

“Acting in many ways like a 'small claims court', an RRM mechanism is needed to swiftly resolve misapplication of SPS and TBT measures, limit trade friction and improve capacity to manage SPS and TBT risks in the least trade distortive manner,” it concluded.

The TPP is a proposed free trade agreement which aims to liberalise trade between the economies of the Asia-Pacific region. It currently includes Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam, altough Japan has also expressed a desire to become a negotiating partners.

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