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Tyson Exec: Bogus Food Safety Concerns Limit U.S. Poultry Exports

WASHINGTON - Greg Lee, chief administrative officer and international president of Tyson Foods, Springdale, AR, told Congress today that foreign governments have replaced quotas and tariffs with disease-control and food-safety declarations to limit the amount of meat U.S. processors export to their markets, according to news reports.

"More and more countries are using poultry health issues, such as avian influenza and veterinary requirements, such as bogus testing for pathogens, to restrict or ban U.S. poultry from their markets," Lee, who spoke as chairman of the National Chicken Council, told the House Agriculture Committee. "This issue of non-tariff trade barriers is where U.S. poultry exporters need the most help by Congress and the administration."

Lee said more than 60 countries imposed trade bans on U.S. poultry earlier this year when cases of avian influenza, or the bird flu, were discovered in parts of the United States. He said countries are using veterinary and sanitary issues to "restrict and halt trade," despite agreements reached through the World Trade Organization.

Lee said China was a good example. The Asian country has banned U.S. poultry products. He stated: "It's clear to us China has another agenda. Countries need to recognize agreed-upon standards for poultry diseases, such as avian influenza, and then properly follow the international standards and procedures."

The congressional hearing coincided with a meeting of the WTO's leading members to renew the Doha Round of stalled world trade negotiations. The talks are aimed at creating a new global trade treaty with an emphasis on reducing trade barriers. Lee recommended postponing negotiations for Russia's entry to the WTO until it abides by current poultry trade agreements. Russia is the largest export market for U.S. chicken, accounting for 30% of total U.S. chicken exports in 2003.

Lee said U.S. poultry processors may be unable to reach their full quota of sales to Russia because only 70% of U.S. poultry plants have passed Russian health and safety inspections. "The very nature of the United States is to play by the rules," Lee said. "Unfortunately, some of these other countries don't seem to evidence that type of commitment."

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