WASHINGTON, March 12 (Reuters) - The United States will make it a priority to get rid of barriers to U.S. farm exports based on unjustified sanitary and phytosanitary concerns about human, animal and plant health, the designee for U.S. Trade Representative said on Thursday.
The barriers have blocked U.S. meat, corn, rice, and other products from a variety of European and Asian markets.
Under the Obama administration, the United States will "aggressively utilize ... all available tools in the WTO and other mechanisms" to fight SPS barriers, Ron Kirk said in written responses to the Senate Finance Committee.
One of the oldest SPS irritants has been a European ban on U.S. beef based on concerns about growth hormones, dating back to the early 1980s.
The United States won a case at the World Trade Organization against the EU ban, and has had retaliatory sanctions against certain EU goods for more than a decade.
Asked whether he would keep the retaliatory list, most recently updated in January by the outgoing Bush administration, Kirk said USTR officials were trying to resolve the long-standing issue.
"USTR officials are currently engaged in discussions with the EU that could result in at least an interim solution to the dispute," he said.
The USTR will also work to normalize beef trade with Korea, Japan, China and other nations still not accepting all U.S. beef following the discovery of mad cow disease in the United States in 2003, Kirk said.
Under Kirk’s watch, the USTR’s office would use every tool "from diplomacy to the dispute resolution process" to get the EU to accept shipments of genetically modified corn, he said.
"We are developing additional expertise and directing resources at addressing non-tariff barriers to trade like this one," Kirk said, referring to the EU ban on GMO crops.
He also said the USTR would look at bans on U.S. pork because of concerns about ractopamine, a growth promotant, as well as a recent move by Russia to ban pork from some of the largest U.S. processing plants.
Kirk said the United States would look for more market access for farm and other goods as it examines the Doha round of WTO negotiations. [ID:nN12375746]
The committee voted on Thursday to back Kirk’s nomination [ID:nN12356961], which will now be considered by the full Senate. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by David Gregorio)