Vilsack Urges Authorization of PNTR for Russia
Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee Thursday - Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called the Permanent Normal Trade Relations for Russia a significant opportunity for America's farmers, ranchers and producers. According to Vilsack - it will provide improved, predictable access to Russia's 140-million consumers and an expanding middle class that has grown by more than 50-percent in the last decade. By granting PNTR - he says the U.S. will not provide additional market access to our domestic market for Russian agricultural imports. Instead - Vilsack says it will simply make the market access we've been extending to the country since 1992 permanent. If Russia is not granted PNTR - Vilsack says the nation's farmers, ranchers and producers will face an uneven playing field as their competitors benefit from Russia's guaranteed tariff treatment and obligation to apply science-based sanitary and phytosanitary standards. With the help of Congress - he says U.S. agriculture can soon reap the benefits of improved market access and Russia's obligations in a rules-based system.
In fiscal year 2011 - U.S. ag exports to Russia were nearly 1.4-billion dollars. Vilsack told committee members that the U.S. only imported 25-million dollars of agricultural products from Russia las year. He said that impressive performance was accomplished despite Russia's imposition of non-science based sanitary and phytosanitary measures and unjustified technical barriers to trade.
As part of its WTO accession agreement - Vilsack notes Russia has agreed to reduce tariffs on a number of imported ag products. For instance - soybean tariffs will be bound at zero and maximum bound tariffs on most cheeses will drop from 25-percent to 15-percent within three years. Vilsack says Russia also applies tariff-rate quotas on a variety of U.S. agricultural imports. Upon WTO accession - he says the country will implement a U.S. country-specific TRQ of 60-thousand tons of frozen beef with an in-quota tariff of 15-percent. Russia's membership in the WTO will also lock in the current applied global TRQs for pork. Russia will immediately eliminate the in-quota 15-percent tariff and significantly lower the out-of-quota tariff upon accession. According to Vilsck - a critical market access barrier for U.S. dairy exports will also be removed.
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