Intense negotiations between the U.S. and Korea to restore beef trade between the nations are ongoing. And as these negotiations proceed, it is important to remember that the role of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is to certify the integrity of the U.S. system for export to various nations according to the terms of agreements, American Meat Institute (AMI) says in a statement on reopening of Korean market.
Trading partners pay visits to plants in the U.S. as part of the evaluation of the U.S. system. USDA does not permit – and should not cede authority for listing and delisting plants – to other nations.
In a February letter to USDA signed by AMI and three other meat industry organizations, AMI told Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns that it would strongly object to any “picking and choosing” of plants for export to Japan. AMI holds the same view about negotiations with Korea.
In the February letter, AMI wrote, “While we are prepared to agree to observation visits by Japanese technical teams to U.S. plants that have been approved by USDA for export to Japan as a confidence-building measure prior to re-opening the market, we would strongly object to any suggestion that the Japanese government should be given the authority to list and de-list U.S. plants….We believe that other Asian markets for US beef would most likely require this policy thus creating a completely unworkable environment for international trade in beef. It would also create significant difficulty in our ability to negotiate Free Trade Agreements that included SPS equivalency.”
That clearly articulated position on negotiations with Japan has not changed, and it applies to negotiations with Korea as well. The U.S. meat inspection and export verification system is among the finest and most comprehensive in the world. The system and its authority is the subject of negotiations – not plants within that system.
The American Meat Institute will hold firm on that position related to Korea and other nations with cautious optimism that full restoration of trade is deserved and long overdue.