Senate votes to block US imports of beef from Paraguay

By Staff
3 Min Read

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Senate moved to repeal a Biden administration decision allowing beef to be imported from Paraguay, citing ranchers’ concerns around the potential spread of highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease.
  • Senators on Thursday voted 70-25 on a resolution that blocks a December rule lifting trade restrictions for Paraguay beef exports to the U.S. The measure still awaits approval from the House, where it will need a two-thirds majority vote to survive a presidential veto.
  • Paraguay beef exports were barred in 1997 amid disease outbreaks in the South American country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said the safety risk associated with reopening beef trade is low, noting that foot-and-mouth disease hasn’t been detected in Paraguay since 2012.

Dive Insight:

The White House warned that closing off beef trade would mark a “significant setback” in trade relations with Paraguay. It would also undercut U.S. credibility as an economic partner in Latin America during a time when exporters are trying to diversify markets away from China.

The resolution “would undermine the credibility of long-standing science-based decision-making processes respected by the U.S.,” the White House said in a statement of administrative policy, “and could in turn severely threaten fair access to new and existing export markets for U.S. farmers and ranchers.”

Ranchers say that there are still outstanding questions regarding the safety of Paraguay beef imports and that the USDA made the decision based on outdated or inadequate data. A U.S. outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease would bring serious economic consequences, according to the Government Accountability Office, as trade partners would likely halt all livestock imports.

“The last time U.S. government officials stepped foot in a Paraguayan meat processing facility was in 2014,” Justin Tupper, president of U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, said in a statement. “That nearly ten-year gap since the last site visit does not inspire confidence in Paraguay’s animal health and food safety protocols.”

Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, sponsored the resolution, noting that lawmakers can overturn agency rules under the Congressional Review Act.

In its statement opposing the resolution, the White House stressed that reopening U.S. market access for Paraguay is essential to counteract “economic coercion” from adversaries like China and Russia.

Paraguay beef exporters are facing some trade restrictions from Russia after the country denounced the invasion of Ukraine. As the sole remaining South American country recognizing Taiwan, Paraguay also faces a “de facto” embargo on direct exports to China.

“This resolution would amplify the false narratives pushed by our adversaries that the United States is not a reliable economic partner,” the White House said. “And it would seriously harm U.S. national security interests, especially our efforts to support partners around the world who seek our help to resist economic coercion.”

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