Washington, D.C. - A combination of import relief and domestic assistance for the U.S. lamb industry is a promise that needs to be kept, according to U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.
Enzi sent a letter on Nov. 30 to President Clinton to show his concern about the administration's promises that would help restore the domestic sheep industry to a healthy state. After an investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), the Clinton Administration decided in July to restrict lamb imports from Australia and New Zealand which were hurting our own domestic lamb producers. But so far, the Clinton Administration has done nothing to fulfill its promises to help rejuvenate the U.S.'s lamb industry.
"To date, we have seen no comprehensive plan by [the Clinton] administration to implement the promise of domestic assistance," the letter states.
The original plan by the president provides that, under a three-year plan, a 9 percent tariff would be imposed on lamb imports from Australia and New Zealand in 1999, declining to 6 percent in 2000 and 3 percent in 2001. Starting in 1999, imports will be limited to 1998 levels of about 78 million pounds and the 9 percent import duty.
But Enzi believes President Clinton is holding this package hostage, however, because of politics associated with the World Trade Organization (WTO) -- the WTO's Director General, Mike Moore, is the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, thus harboring a conflict of interest.
"The clock is ticking faster and faster -- we are running out of time," Enzi said. "The well being of our sheep producers here at home is at risk because of political agitation."
The WTO has agreed to establish a dispute settlement panel to hear complaints of Australia and New Zealand against the action taken by the United States. Any further delay by the White House to begin releasing funds association with the section 201 financial assistance package will put the entire package at risk and delay the domestic industry from getting back on its feet.
The letter addresses the administration's proposals for reprogramming funds that are already allocated to the sheep industry before the recent surge of imports.
"To provide real relief, any programmatic and policy options should represent new ideas [from the sheep industry] using additional resources consistent with [the industry's] $100 million proposal and in line with budgetary constraints," Enzi writes.
Enzi is requesting a detailed plan that recommends remedies to the threat of "serious injury to the domestic sheep industry" in the letter. The plan should "provide both immediate relief and a long-term strategy for the development of a stable sheep industry."
Eleven other members of Congress signed the letter, including Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo.