U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai this week laid out the Biden administration’s views on trade in two separate hearings this week with the House Ways and Means Committee and later the Senate Finance Committee.

Her testimony’s main points included priorities such as “empowering workers through trade,” “enforcing trade agreements for a level playing field,” “making trade work for all Americans,” “transforming the WTO,” “collaborating with trading partners,” and “promoting supply chain resilience.”

“Our Administration’s economic plan is leading our country in the strongest economic recovery amongst all developed nations,” Tai said in written testimony. “We have shifted the conversation from focusing on the bigs to including and championing the interests of the smalls and the mediums. From trickle down to bottom up. From people as consumers only to people as workers also. We are reorienting the economic system to strengthen the middle class.”

“We’re using trade to give everyone a fair shot,” Tai concluded. “That means creating incentives that are more than lower costs; raising labor and environmental standards; and pursuing resiliency.”

Tai did not mention increased market access by formulating free trade agreements (FTAs). During oral testimony in the Senate Finance hearing, Tai expanded on her thoughts regarding FTAs, saying that “the traditional FTAs we negotiate continue to pit Americans against Americans and sectors against sectors in a way that is entirely unsustainable.”

Tai did include in her testimony that USTR addressed two situations over the last three years regarding U.S. chicken exports, specifically in maintaining market access to South Africa and Colombia. “We also got major wins for our poultry producers—South Africa lifted restrictions on U.S. poultry and poultry products, and we reopened the Colombian market for U.S. poultry and egg products,” Tai’s testimony said.

She, however, did not list any new market access USTR has sought or achieved for U.S. chicken exports during the course of her tenure.

Tai’s written testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee can be found here, and written testimony to the Senate Finance Committee can be found here.

Background on South Africa

South Africa’s Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition along with the International Trade Administration (ITA) in February 2024 announced rebates for boneless and bone-in chicken cuts imported into the country.

As a result of South Africa’s ongoing Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak, the Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition issued a directive to investigate a possible temporary set of rebates on chicken imports to meet domestic demand and avoid further meat and poultry price inflation, leading to the decision to issue the rebates.

The rebates will assist local buyers in importing chicken products. South Africa currently charges 62 percent on bone-in chicken products and 42 percent on boneless chicken products. In March 2020, it raised these tariffs to 37 percent for bone-in products and 12 percent for boneless products.

U.S. chicken exports to South Africa also face Anti-Dumping Duties on bone-in chicken products, as do exports from Brazil, Poland, Ireland, Denmark, and Spain.

South Africa is eligible for benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for many products. To be eligible for these AGOA benefits, countries must “establish or make continual progress toward establishing a market-based economy, the rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process,” according to the U.S. Trade Representative. “Additionally, countries must eliminate barriers to U.S. trade and investment, enact policies to reduce poverty, combat corruption, and protect human rights.”

Thirty-two countries are eligible for AGOA benefits in 2024. In 2015, Congress passed legislation modernizing and extending the program to 2025, upon which the agreement is up for reconsideration and renewal.

Background on Colombia

Colombia’s Ministry of Agriculture, in June 2023, instructed all Colombian ports to deny import permits to any incoming poultry product shipments due to concerns about highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Per a side letter affiliated with the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, in force since 2012, Colombia must only refuse shipments of U.S. poultry products from U.S. counties impacted by HPAI, while other counties unaffected by the virus would remain able to ship products to the South American country.

USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), along with the U.S. Trade Representative, worked directly with Colombian officials to reverse the ban, allowing shipments already in transit and others readying for shipment to resume into the country.

Colombia lifted its ban on U.S. poultry and egg imports in early March 2024 after the market was shut down for a second time in August 2023. Colombia’s Institute for Agriculture and Livestock (ICA) again cited ongoing HPAI outbreaks as the reason for the closure.