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News Release
  Release No. 0558.05
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Ed Loyd (202) 720-4623

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  JOHANNS PROMOTES U.S. AGRICULTURE TRADE ISSUES WITH MINISTERS AT WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION MEETING
 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2005- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns returned to Washington today following travel to attend the 6th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial in Hong Kong. In addition to participating in the WTO Ministerial, Johanns met with several important U.S. trading partners to advance agriculture trade.

"Our working relationship with many countries was advanced this week," said Johanns. "I had the opportunity to meet with many of my counterparts during the WTO Ministerial meetings on a bilateral basis to advance our mutual trade interests. The momentum for opening Asia's markets to U.S. beef is growing."

Johanns held seven bilateral meetings throughout the week with South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Russia, Germany, Canada and Mexico.

Johanns and Minister Hong-Soo Park of South Korea's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry discussed the quick resumption of beef trade with the United States now that the Animal Health Commission made its positive recommendation this week. South Korea is only remaining major export market closed to U.S. beef since the first BSE find in 2003. Japan announced on Dec. 12 that it was resuming trade in U.S. beef and beef products from animals 20 months of age or younger, while the U.S. will continue to urge Japan to fully adopt a science-based approach, following the OIE guidelines for allowing beef trade.

In response to Johanns meeting with Minister Park, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service J.B. Penn has traveled today at the invitation of South Korea for meetings in Seoul to begin the negotiation process for lifting import restrictions on U.S. beef.

Additionally, Johanns urged Korea to quickly implement its rice import obligations following the National Assembly's recent approval. Korea has agreed to import greater quantities and make U.S. rice available to retail consumers.

In meetings with Hong Kong's Commerce Secretary John Tsang and China's Agriculture Minister Du Qinglin, Johanns also pressed for the opening markets to U.S. beef. Johanns meeting followed a recent Chinese technical team visit to the United States in November to review U.S. BSE safeguards. Johanns and Minister Du also signed an agreement to hold regular consultations on animal and plant health technical issues. "I'm very pleased that we successfully advanced our working relationship with China," said Johanns. "China is a growing market for U.S. agricultural products, accounting for more than $6 billion of our export sales. The agreement I signed this week will create a new working group to address sanitary and phytosanitary issues, resolving potential barriers to increased trade."

The agreement established a joint Animal and Plant Health Working Group under the Joint Committee on Cooperation in Agriculture (JCCA). Composed of representatives of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the working group will address sanitary and phytosanitary issues through the exchange of scientific and technical information and promotion of cooperative efforts on domestic animal and plant health regulatory initiatives in both countries.

Total U.S. agricultural, forestry and fishery exports to China rose to $6.2 billion in 2004, more than triple the 2000 level, prior to China's accession to the WTO. Soybeans, cotton, hides and skins and wheat continue to be the main drivers of export growth.

In addition to these bilateral meetings, Johanns also met with ministers from:

  • Russia- U.S. Trade Representative Portman and Johanns met with Russian Trade Minister German Gref to discuss issues regarding Russia's negotiations for WTO accession, especially access for U.S. poultry and meat exports and to resolve sanitary, phytosanitary and other technical barriers to trade.
  • Mexico- Johanns and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab met with Mexico's Agriculture Secretary Francisco Mayorga and Commerce Secretary Sergio Garcia de Alba to U.S. opposition to the imposition of dumping duties on U.S. ham and the resumption of U.S. bone-in beef sales to Mexico.
  • Canada - In talks with Canada's Food and Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell, Johanns called on Canada to join others in making significant contribution to the WTO agriculture negotiations by agreeing to modify the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly. Johanns also expressed disappointment in Canadian action to proceed with imposing dumping and countervailing duties on U.S. corn. Canada is a net corn importer and important market.
  • Germany -Johanns and Germany's Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer, who recently became minister with the inauguration of the Merkel government, met for the first time to discuss market access and export competition issues relating to the WTO Doha Round talks.

During the week of Dec. 13 to 18, Johanns and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman represented the United States at the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial, which was attended by ministers from 149 countries to advance the Doha Round of trade negotiations. More information is available at www.ustr.gov or www.usda.gov.