April 6, 2012
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), as a result of meetings with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative, penned letters to members of the Senate Finance Committee offering the industry's position on the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.
Export markets closed to American lamb in 2003 when bovine spongiform encephalopathy was detected in the United States in an imported cow. Years later, these markets remain closed even after beef trade has resumed. It is the position of the American sheep industry that the United States should open at least one significant export market for American lamb prior to any discussions of lamb imports to the United States under the proposed TPP agreement.
The TPP agreement includes the countries of Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam with interest being expressed by Canada, Mexico and Japan in joining the talks.
There is no tariff rate quota on lamb imports into the United States, and the duty rate on lamb meat is less than one-half of a cent per pound. Therefore, the United States is one of the very few freely traded markets in the world for lamb meat as evidenced by the fact that it is one of the top two export markets for Australia and one of the top 10 destinations for New Zealand lamb.
"Currently, TPP has no significant economic benefit to the sheep industries in the United States, New Zealand or Australia," stated Peter Orwick, ASI executive director. "Of the current TPP countries, we have an interest in Vietnam and certainly ASI would support the addition of Japan to the talks if they are willing to resume full access for lamb trade.
"We strongly believe that expanding our sheep producers' and lamb companies' ability to market beyond North America would be an appropriate policy of the U.S. government," concluded Orwick.