Skelton praises breakthrough on pork trade with China over H1N1 concerns
By: Press Office of U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton
Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 29, 2009) — Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) praised today’s announcement by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk that China has agreed to resume imports of U.S. pork products to the Chinese market. The spread of H1N1 human influenza cases in the U.S. prompted China to irresponsibly impose a ban on imported U.S. pork products in May 2009.
“Today’s announcement is a boost for Missouri pork producers. Trade is an indispensible part of the agricultural market.
“Earlier this year, China made an irresponsible decision to restrict American pork and swine imports. Its decision was based on flawed notions regarding H1N1 human influenza. I am pleased that Secretary Vilsack and Trade Representative Kirk have worked diligently to remind America’s trading partners that they must adhere to scientific data when making decisions about the marketplace. Today’s decision by China to again begin accepting pork and swine imports from the United States is a positive step forward,” said Skelton.
Skelton recently met in Sedalia with Missouri pork producers. Trade and this particular trade impasse with China represented an important part of their discussion. Earlier this year, Skelton wrote to Vilsack and Kirk to thank them for their forceful statements in support of the U.S. pork industry. Additionally, Skelton worked with his colleagues to fix an dispute regarding Chinese poultry that had been problematic in America’s trade policies with China. The trade issue, which many in the livestock sector blamed for China’s reaction to H1N1 human influenza, was resolved with enactment of the Fiscal Year 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on Oct. 21.
Letters from Skelton letter to Vilsack and Kirk, from Kirk to Skelton, and from Skelton to Rosa L. Delauro, Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, are attached. _____
April 28, 2009
The Honorable Tom Vilsack Secretary of Agriculture Washington, D.C. 20250
The Honorable Ron Kirk U.S. Trade Representative Washington, D.C. 20508
Dear Secretary Vilsack and Trade Representative Kirk,
Earlier today, I was pleased to read your joint statement reiterating the safety of the U.S. food supply. Your clear and concise message on this issue is important to American farmers whose livelihoods should not be hindered by non-scientific, emotional reactions to the current outbreak of H1N1 human influenza.
American pork is safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that H1N1 human influenza, also known as the "swine flu," is not spread by food and that humans cannot acquire this virus by eating pok or pork products.
As someone who has worked to open international markets to American pork and other agricultural commodities, I would be terribly disappointed if our trading partners attempt to restrict pork imports based on unproven concerns about this strain of human influenza. Unwise actions by other countries would make the current situation worse and would wreak unnecessary havoc on the futures market for pork, corn, soybeans, and other commodities.
I am hopeful that your statement will reassure American farmers that their government is looking out for their interests and will entice trading partners to act wisely.
With kind regards, I remain Ike Skelton Member of Congress _____
May 20, 2009
The Honorable Ike Skelton U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515-2504
Dear Congressman Skelton:
Thank you for your recent letter. As you know, since the HIN1 influenza outbreak was discovered, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control to understand HIN1 concerns and to share the facts with America's trading partners. I agree with you that American pork is safe and we will contbue our best efforts to communicate that message to our trading partners.
I have been in direct communication with a number of our trading partners directly urging them to drop unscientific pork import bans imposed by countries concerned about the spread of H1N1 influenza. I am concerned that these unjustified restrictions will likely result in serious trade disruptions without cause and result in significant economic damage.
Last week, I also issued a joint statement with Stockwell Day, Canadian Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia Pacific Gateway, and Gerardo Ruiz, Mexican Secretary of the Economy, calling for an end to bans on pork imports unsupported by science. In our statement, we explain our governments' commitment to doing everything possible to bring the outbreak under control, while noting the large and negative economic impact of such bans.
As you know, more than a dozen countries worldwide have sought to ban pork imports Hom H1N1-affected nations.
To bolster our efforts, on May 2, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Trade Organization issued a statement saying that "there is no evidence that the virus is transmitted by food. There is currently therefore no justification in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Code for the imposition of trade measures on the importation of pigs or their products." These organizations stressed that "pork and pork products, handled in accordance with good hygienic practices recommended by the WHO, FAO, Codex Alimentarius Commission and the OIE, will not be a source of infection." We will continue to work with these organizations to press our trading partners to meet their international obligations.
In view of the above, and the safety of our American food supply, I will continue to work closely with you to urge our trading partners to remove these restrictions on our products immediately.
You have my firm commitment that we will continue to follow this situation closely and will take any steps to prevent the enforcement of unjustified measures against our exports as appropriate.
Sincerely, Ronald Kirk US Trade Representative _____
July 27, 2009
The Honorable Rosa L. Delauro, Chairwoman House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture 2413 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515
I have been made aware that your subcommittee will hold a hearing tomorrow relating to a provision in the agriculture spending bill that would ban imports of processed chicken from China. This provision, which has been included on the agriculture legislation for a number of years, has caused some concern within Missouri's agricultural community, which benefits from robust international trade.
The federal government has a responsibility to ensure American consumers have access to the safest and most affordable food supply. No one wants us to permit unsafe food in our grocery stores. But, as policy makers study the best legislative solutions to serious agricultural trade concerns, decisions must be made based on the best evidence possible.
That is why your hearing tomorrow is particularly important to my Missouri farmers, some of whom feel like the swine and beef industry are being punished by China because of the continued processed chicken import ban. Please know I share the concerns of Show-Me State producers on this issue and look forward to learning more from your hearing.
With respect, I remain Ike Skelton Member of Congress
Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.