The U.S. poultry industry has been and continues to be one of the strongest voices in U.S. agriculture for trade liberalization and international market opening.
"In the case of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union (EU), however, the U.S. poultry industry is, very frankly, much less enthusiastic," said National Chicken Council Senior Vice President Bill Roenigk in testimony delivered October 30 at a U.S. Senate Finance Committee hearing, "The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Achieving the Potential."
"We have serious concerns - even serious doubts - that any new trade agreement with the European Union will result in real and meaningful access for U.S. poultry exports to the European market," Roenigk said.
In 1997, the EU erected a number of non-scientific and unjustifiable non-tariff barriers that have prohibited U.S. poultry from the European market for the past 17 years.
Today, if U.S. poultry could be exported to the EU, sales would be in excess of $600 million on an annual basis, making it one of the top export markets. This revenue would generate significant economic activity in many parts of rural America; stimulate employment in more than 30 important poultry states, directly and indirectly; and provide for a more-stable flow of income to hundreds of family farms who raise chickens.
The United States and the European Union at the time were engaged in the so-called "Equivalency Negotiations" attempting to implement many of the provisions of the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures with respect to trade in meat and poultry products. The most difficult issue to resolve - indeed, the last issue to be resolved - in those negotiations was the issue to the terms and conditions for access for U.S. poultry. Despite United States insistence that the USDA system guarantees a safe, wholesome product and the EU's failure to provide any evidence showing that the use of chlorinated water in poultry processing had any negative health effects or harm to the environment, the EU, nonetheless, very arbitrarily imposed its ban on U.S. poultry.
"Our experience with the European Union's actions to block U.S. poultry imports - even in contradiction of the advice of its own scientists - tells us that Europe is unwilling to allow imports that would compete with European product, and that Europe will not live by the commitments that it makes in this respect," Roenigk continued. "We are also concerned, based on lack of progress in the WTO case initiated several years ago, that the U.S. government will not insist on implementation of the terms of market access negotiated."