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Remarks by Ambassador Islam Siddiqui at the Food and Drug Law Institute’s Conference

Remarks by Ambassador Islam Siddiqui
Chief Agricultural Negotiator

Food and Drug Law Institute’s Conference
“Food Law and Regulation Go Global: What’s Your Food GPS?"
Park Hyatt Hotel - Washington, DC
January 26, 2012

*As Prepared for Delivery*

"Thank you, Jim for that kind introduction. And thank you to our host, the Food and Drug Law Institute, for allowing me the opportunity to speak at this important gathering here this afternoon.

"As you know, The United States Trade Representative’s Office is responsible for negotiating trade agreements, enforcing trade agreements, and removing trade barriers with partner countries to keep markets open around the globe.

"As Chief Agricultural Negotiator, my office is responsible for ensuring that the Obama Administration is continuously fighting for the rights of U.S. exporters of food and agricultural products.

"And while tariffs are a major source of economic costs and distortions in international trade, more and more, our work to keep markets open means addressing the growing number of non-tariff barriers.

"During my time at USTR, our agricultural exporters have continued to emphasize to us their strong desire that USTR work to address tariff AND non-tariff barriers with our key trading partners.

"This requires a sophisticated balancing act on the part of USTR as we effectively address the trade impact of new measures, while simultaneously ensuring that countries have the right to protect public health, safety, and the environment.

"To understand when a measure or regulation is an unfair or unnecessary trade barrier, we are collectively called upon to understand the scientific and technical issues at hand.

"Our team at USTR is proud to lead the U.S. interagency process in pursuit of the U.S. trade agenda. We rely heavily on the input of experts like you – in the U.S. regulatory community and the agricultural community to enable us to effectively address market access concerns.

"At USTR, we see several underlying causes of market access concerns associated with regulatory measures. Some measures are thinly disguised forms of protectionism. Other measures have clear public health objectives yet involve overly burdensome implementation requirements.

"Others still miss the mark on several counts. So, we need a variety of tools and venues to both strengthen food safety and to address trade concerns.

"In this vein, it is my pleasure to introduce to you here today an outstanding initiative to advance our understanding of how to improve food safety, and more importantly, how to take meaningful action in pursuit of this goal.

"This initiative is the result of a remarkable collaboration among trade officials, food safety regulators, development officials, industry experts and academics.

"USTR believes this food safety capacity building initiative carries the potential to bring new producers from around the world into global supply chains.

"We also believe it will strengthen the food safety systems of existing supply chain participants, while also improving public health and facilitating trade.

"Last November, the Leaders of the 21 economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Honolulu announced that $1 million had been pledged towards the launch of an innovative public-private partnership:

"A Global Food Safety Partnership Program.

"Building on the landmark Memorandum of Understanding between the APEC Food Safety Cooperation Forum and the World Bank signed in May 2011 in Big Sky, Montana, this fund will expand knowledge and understanding of food safety management across the world.

"This innovative public-private partnership, the first of its kind, will be managed by the World Bank and has secured generous seed money from Mars Incorporated, the Waters Corporation, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

"This fund will build on the public-private partnership pioneered by APEC and encourage local stakeholders to invest in food safety capacity building, with three pillars as defined in our Three Year Plan:

1) The first pillar involves developing, testing and validating pilot programs in APEC that will result in training modules which can be customized for roll out all around the world. These programs will focus on critical needs-- supply chain management, food safety incident management, laboratory competency, risk analysis and strengthening food safety regulatory systems.

2) The second focus is addressing high priority food hazards, such as aflatoxins in grain, Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, and viral and bacterial pathogens in seafood.

3) The third and final area of emphasis involves Strengthening Analytics and Metrics which are needed for consistent, reliable and scalable testing, designing, and evaluation of the performance of food safety systems.

"As a trade official with decades of experience with SPS measures, I can tell you that effective, science-based regulatory systems are essential.

"They support the efficient functioning of global food supply chains and prevent unnecessary barriers to trade.

"Furthermore, producers and growers must be able to understand and utilize preventive controls in order to participate in those supply chains.

"This powerful coalition emerged because this vital investment in food safety supports so many shared objectives – 1) improving public health, 2) facilitating trade, and 3) integrating producers into the global supply chain.

"We feel that this initial investment in food safety is only the beginning, and planning is underway to augment the initial pledges announced in Honolulu last November.

"The World Bank Group, industry stakeholders, and other participants are currently exploring additional fundraising opportunities.

"All told, the fund’s goal is to raise $15-20 million in the three year work-plan.

"Funding facilities under this program include Externally Funded Outputs (EFOs), a Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) and other bilateral mechanisms.

"This will allow the program to begin immediately, with training programs developed and tested in the APEC forum before country customization and global roll out.

"Governance of the program and its supporting funds will be structured accordingly. A three-year plan of training is now underway.

"USTR is proud to have played a key leadership role in the success of this exciting collaboration. We invite you to join us in participating in, supporting, and contributing towards the work of the new Global Food Safety Partnership Program.

"Now let me take a step back to address some of the broader issues critical to the Obama Administrations trade agenda for 2012.

"As many of you know, October 2011 was a month for the record books in international trade. We witnessed the passage of the three pending free trade agreements, as well as the renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act and trade preference programs.

"With Korea’s ratification of KORUS on November 22nd, all of the legislative bodies in all four countries have now approved the respective agreements. We can all be proud of this significant accomplishment.

"Now, you are no doubt most interested in the answer to this question:

"So when will these three FTAs be implemented?

"This task involves a considerable amount of detailed and complex technical work to ensure that all domestic laws and regulations are consistent with the provisions of the FTA on Day 1 of entry into force.

"USTR staff recently led a delegation to Seoul, South Korea for discussions pertaining to the implementation and administration of the tariff-rate quotas that will be established under the KORUS agreement for a wide range of agricultural products.

"While the length of time necessary to implement each of the three agreements will likely vary, I can tell you that the President is committed to bringing these agreements into force as soon as possible to reap their full benefits at home.

"As we look to implement these FTAs in the near term, we must continue to push forward on new fronts to create new opportunities for our farmers and ranchers.

"With this goal in mind, our objective in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations is to broker a 21st century trade agreement with the world’s most dynamic economies and to create jobs in the United States.

"As President Obama clearly stated at the recent APEC meeting in Honolulu last November, the Asia Pacific region is critical to America's economic future. It’s the fastest growing region in the world.

"We are further encouraged by the announcement from Japan, Canada, and Mexico in Honolulu of their intention to join the TPP negotiations.

"USTR believes that the TPP has the potential to be a real game-changer in terms of integration of key economies in the Asia Pacific region, and in creating new jobs here at home.

"Let me be clear: the United States is a strong supporter of the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement.

"But we recognize that there’s a lot more work that needs to be done in this area.

"Too often, we encounter non-tariff barriers in other countries that are imposed without notification. Most importantly, many trade barriers are not based on science and sound risk assessments.

"I believe the TPP negotiations provide the U.S. with an excellent and unique opportunity to address these vital SPS trade concerns.

"To date, our negotiators have made good progress and are looking to ensure that the SPS chapter in the TPP agreement will include new provisions to strengthen transparency, science-based risk assessments and laboratory practices.

"And so, let me turn to another key issue critical to our trade agenda. As many of you know, the Russian Federation was formally invited to join the WTO as a member during the WTO Ministerial Conference on December 16th in Geneva.

"Now, let me tell you why the Obama Administration strongly supports Russia becoming a full-fledged member of the WTO.

"Russia imports huge quantities of products from around the world every year. But currently, we have very few tools in our toolbox to ensure that our domestic producers are able to compete on a level playing field in the Russian market.

"Under the terms of their accession, Russia has committed to apply WTO rules from “day one” of its membership.

"Having Russia bound by these rules will allow U.S. exporters to make full use of the commitments secured by our negotiators.

"As my boss, Ambassador Kirk has frequently asserted, strict and consistent enforcement of our trade agreements is an absolutely essential pillar of our Administration’s trade agenda.

"USTR is intensifying its enforcement efforts to ensure that our exporters receive all the job-building benefits U.S. negotiators fight for on the bargaining table.

"So in closing, I want to emphasize that USTR will continuously work hard on your behalf to keep the global conveyor belts of international trade clean from unwanted dirt and sand.

"But ultimately it is our producers, distributors, and exporters who must fill those conveyor belts with innovative high-quality American products if we are to meet our goals of expanding our agricultural exports and creating jobs here at home.

"USDA’s Economic Research Service estimates that every $1 billion in agricultural exports supports around 8,400 jobs here at home.

"With U.S. agricultural exports setting a record of $137.4 billion in 2011—and a net increase of 22 billion over 2010—that truly is a lot of jobs!

"In this spirit of entrepreneurship and public/private partnership, we will continue to grow our exports, grow our economy, and improve food safety standards around the world.

"Thank you."