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Fact Sheet: Expanding Food and Agricultural Exports: Successes in Reducing Sanitary and Phytosanitary Barriers



In 2012, the Obama Administration opened markets for a wide range of food and agricultural products from across the United States. The Administration’s success in removing unwarranted sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) barriers to U.S. exports is a critical element in expanding new markets for U.S. food and agricultural exports and is an important milestone under the Administration’s National Export Initiative (NEI). U.S. exporters of food and agricultural products are at the forefront in helping to achieve the goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014. U.S. food and agricultural exports reached an all-time high in 2012 at over $145 billion, an increase of $4 billion over 2011.

Today, USTR is issuing its fourth annual Report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Report). As has been highlighted in previous years, foreign governments continue to impose discriminatory or otherwise unwarranted measures on U.S. exports in the guise of ensuring human, animal, or plant safety. These unwarranted SPS barriers not only harm U.S. farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, workers, and their families, but deprive consumers around the world of access to safe, high-quality American food and agricultural goods. The Obama Administration’s efforts to identify and remove such barriers are at the center of its drive to increase U.S. exports to the rest of the world and support jobs in America. We will continue those efforts on behalf of U.S. farmers, ranchers, food producers, and exporters as we seek to help achieve the goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014. 

In 2012, U.S. trade negotiators have removed the following SPS barriers to U.S. exports, among others:

Expanded Market Opportunities for U.S. Beef and Beef Products

The Administration achieved several important market openings for U.S. beef and beef products in 2012 and early 2013. Prominent among these is an agreement between the United States and Japan that allows for expanded exports of U.S. beef by, among other actions, increasing the maximum age of cattle from which beef and beef products may be shipped to Japan from 20 months to less than 30 months. In addition, the Administration negotiated access for additional U.S. beef and beef products into Mexico, Hong Kong and El Salvador. We expect that the combination of these market openings will increase U.S. beef and beef product exports by hundreds of millions of dollars from the more than $5.5 billion of these products that were exported in 2012.

The Administration worked with the Taiwan authorities to adopt and implement in August 2012 a maximum residue limit (MRL) for the feed additive ractopamine that may be found in beef. Following the implementation of the MRL and labeling, monthly shipments of U.S. beef to the Taiwan market more than doubled from $2 million to $5 million per month and remain at record levels.

 SPS Barriers with Colombia Resolved

With the entry into force of the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement on May 15, 2012, the two governments entered into three agreements, which resolved significant SPS barriers for U.S. poultry products and rough (paddy) rice. For 2012, U.S. exports of poultry and poultry products to Colombia were valued at nearly $36 million, up 50 percent from 2011. U.S. exports of rice (both milled and paddy) to Colombia skyrocketed from $3 million in 2011 to $57 million in 2012, almost 20 times the level of exports in the previous year.

U.S. Cherries Enjoyed by Korean Consumers

U.S. Government officials, in coordination with U.S. cherry exporters, engaged the Korean government regarding the efficient administration of Korea’s phytosanitary sampling regime for imported U.S. cherries, a critically important process given the highly perishable nature of cherries. As a result of these efforts and combined with the elimination of Korea’s 24 percent tariff under the United States-Korea Trade Agreement on March 15, 2012, U.S. exports for the 2012 season totaled nearly $74 million, an almost 100 percent increase over the $39 million in exports in the preceding year.

Trade Barriers Resolved with China

U.S. government officials successfully negotiated a new food safety certificate in December 2012 to satisfy new Chinese regulations and keep open a $1.3 billion market for U.S. fish and fishery products. In addition, the Administration worked with China to permit imports of U.S. poultry products from Minnesota. In December 2012, the United States and China completed negotiations on a new dairy food safety certificate, which will provide more predictability for U.S. dairy exporters, who shipped products valued at over U.S. $415 million in 2012. Finally, in January 2013, after extensive engagement with Chinese officials, U.S. pears from California, Washington, and Oregon became eligible for export to China.

European Union Lowers Barriers to Beef and Swine

After significant work on the part of U.S. negotiators, on February 4, 2013, the European Union (EU) eliminated its ban on the use of lactic acid as a pathogen reduction treatment on beef, and issued regulations to allow the import and transshipment of live swine. The lactic acid and live swine approvals were significant breakthroughs on longstanding barriers to U.S. exports. Lactic acid, which has been widely and safely used in the United States for many years, is the first pathogen reduction treatment to be approved by the EU on any kind of meat or poultry product. Being able to export product treated with lactic acid will allow more U.S. beef exporters to take advantage of access provided under EU beef quotas.

Fruit and Vegetable Trade Barriers Eliminated

The Administration secured the elimination of SPS barriers to exports of U.S. fresh fruits and vegetables in several countries. In 2012, for example, the Administration worked to prevent the closing of the port of Jakarta, through which over 90 percent of U.S. horticultural exports to Indonesia, valued at over $110 million annually, enter. Additionally, the United States and Costa Rica signed a protocol in June 2012 to resume exports to Costa Rica of U.S. potatoes used for potato chips, which were banned earlier in the year due to a disease known as zebra chip.