The Obama administration’s pick for top agricultural trade negotiator, Darci Vetter said this week she would seek full tariff elimination for all goods in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. “Our goal at the moment is to go line-by-line with those countries and those products to achieve the best and fullest market access,” Vetter said in testimony at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.

Vetter, the deputy undersecretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services, was nominated by the administration to serve as chief U.S. agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Senators pressed Vetter about the prospects of getting Japan to open its markets fully in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations currently underway.  Vetter, who is already involved in bilateral negotiations with Japan under her current role, said talks with Tokyo are “picking up the pace” but offered little detail on the specifics of the negotiations.

Japan seeks to defend five “sacred” categories of farm goods from tariff cuts: rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy and sugar. “Our task right now is to bring home the most meaningful, ambitious market access possible… that includes the five sensitive product areas that Japan has identified,” she said.

Vetter also addressed Canada’s restrictions on imports of milk, poultry and eggs. The Canadian government, which is participating in the TPP talks, has long shielded those sectors through a supply management system that sets strict domestic production requirements while limiting foreign imports in order to control prices. “That will be one of my top negotiating priorities,” she said, when asked by Senator John Thune (R-SD) what she would do to open that market.

Senate Chicken Caucus Co-Chair Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) asked Vetter what she would do to break down regulatory barriers that are keeping the chicken products out of the European market. U.S. chicken has only gained a small foothold in Europe because the European Union bans the use of anti-pathogen rinses commonly used in U.S. processing plants.  Vetter said the United States has been very clear since the outset of trade talks with the European Union hat there would be a “real negotiation on their regulatory system.”  The European Food Safety Authority has already taken the first steps to lift restrictions on the use of peroxyacetic acid for rinsing chicken carcasses, she said.

In the closing remarks made in the hearing, many Senators expressed their desires to quickly confirm the nomination of Vetter to USTR, however a date for a final vote has yet to be set.

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