Senators sent a letter to the Russian Ambassador Wednesday lambasting Russia over what they call a “lack of cooperation” on resolving an ongoing trade dispute over poultry imports.
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) pressed the Russian government to get moving on their public commitment to reopen markets to U.S. poultry imports. Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev announced in June that the two countries had come to an agreement to end a five-month long standoff that began when Russia declared it would no longer accept poultry processed with chlorine, a chemical widely used in the U.S. as a food safety intervention.
Russian Veterinary Service officials announced last week they will require the re-inspection of U.S. poultry processing plants before restoring their eligibility to export product to Russia, a move that Lincoln and Chambliss are calling “yet another obstacle to resumption of trade.”
“This new requirement appears to be inconsistent with the agreement of June 24th, which specified that plant eligibility to export to Russia would be governed by provisions of the 2006 bilateral accord on plant inspections,” reads the letter, sent to Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak Wednesday.
“Russia’s refusal to resume poultry trade with the U.S. demonstrates an serious lack of commitment to the agreement reached by the two countries in June,” Lincoln said in a statement released yesterday. “By creating an arbitrary trade barrier, Russia continues to hamper progress in U.S.-Russian relations. As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee I intend to make sure the Russian government lives up to their commitment to resume fair and open U.S. poultry imports.”
“The action on the part of the Russians does not benefit them in the eyes of a lot of policymakers who are trying to make up their minds relative to other questions,” added Sen. Chambliss. “If we can’t work out a deal on chickens and expect them to keep their word, how can we trust them on issues of nuclear weapon facilities?”
Over the last three years, U.S. poultry exports to Russia averaged more than $800 million in value, making Russia the single largest U.S. export market, according to the Senate Ag Committee, which notes the poultry industry represents over 500,000 jobs in the United States.
Pictured: Presidents Obama and Medvedev during a joint conference in the East Room of the White House June 24, photo screenshot of White House live.