A coalition of agricultural and food organizations is urging Congress to establish criteria for revoking a country's tariff-free access to the U.S. market if it fails to give U.S. products treatment consistent with international trade rules.
In question are the Generalized System of Preferences and a similar counterpart, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which offers tariff-free treatment on many products from developing countries.
Last year, 130 nations received such benefits on about 5,000 products shipped to the United States. Congress is set to extend AGOA, which expires in 2015, and to renew GSP, which expired at the end of July.
Groups concerned about the GSP and AGOA said in a letter to lawmakers Monday that "barriers to U.S. exports in GSP beneficiary countries are widespread and are often in flagrant violation of international obligations.
"The fact that these countries may maintain these restrictions on U.S. goods while benefitting from unilateral preferential treatment for their products in the U.S. market – and with little apparent concern about losing those tariff benefits – is clearly inconsistent with the intent of Congress, and we believe this must change," the letter said.
In a separate letter to Congress, the coalition stated its strong opposition to a long-term or permanent extension of AGOA.
An extension, said the coalition, would remove any incentive for beneficiary nations to move toward reciprocal trade relationships with the United States.
The letter said if AGOA is continued, law should require, at a minimum, that beneficiary countries "refrain from erecting blatantly protectionist and WTO-incompatible barriers to our products."
The coalition also weighed in on renewing beneficial trade treatment for African nations that they said restricts U.S. imports. A number of African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, have non-tariff trade barriers to U.S. goods, most of which violate World Trade Organization trade rules, they said.
Signatories to the letters include the National Pork Producers Council, the American Feed Industry Association, the American Meat Institute, the National Milk Producers Federation and the National Chicken Council, among others.
Click on the links above to view the letters.