Meat Industry INSIGHTS Newsletter

990630 U.S. To Strike Balance On Lamb Imports

June 24, 1999

Washington - The Clinton administration is looking at a range of options of help U.S. lamb producers rebuild their industry without restricting imports from Australia and New Zealand any more than necessary, U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky said.

“We are weighing what we believe.. the most appropriate and least-trade- restrictive remedy will be,” Barshefsky told the House Agriculture Committee at a hearing on trade issues.

Earlier this year, the U.S. International Trade Commission voted 6-0 that low-priced imports from Australia and New Zealand threatened to damage the domestic industry.

That set the stage for President Bill Clinton to decide by June 4 whether to impose import restrictions, which the domestic industry says it needs to rebuild.

Barshefsky acknowledged on Wednesday that the decision was “long overdue” and told reporters after the hearing that an announcement should come “in the not-too-distant future.”

Both Australia and New Zealand have strongly objected to any import restrictions on the grounds that neither country subsidizes its lamb production or exports.

But Barshefsky noted that the U.S. lamb industry won an a unanimous decision from the ITC after pursuing its right to seek import relief under U.S. trade law.

“It is incumbent on the administration to think carefully through the remedy options and look out for the interests of American producers,” she said.

At the same time, the United States should not restrict imports any more than is necessary, she said, adding “Any remedy should not be more restrictive than accomplishing that goal.”.

Rep. Charles Stenholm, Texas Democrat, and Rep. Nick Smith, Republican Michigan, urged the administration to hurry up and decide the matter.

“We're anxiously awaiting the answer from the president,” Stenholm said.

Low-priced imports from Australia and New Zealand have risen sharply in recent years, making it hard for U.S. producers to compete.

Australia and New Zealand account for virtually all of U.S. lamb meat imports. Last year, the two countries shipped about $140 million worth of product to the United States.

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