The Grocery Manufacturers of America today expressed strong support for the International Trade Commission’s (ITC) efforts to give trade negotiators new tools to eliminate trade barriers faced by the food and beverage industry.

“The processed food and beverage industry provides a key export gateway for our farmers and ranchers,” said Sarah Fogarty, GMA director of international trade. “Completion of the ITC study will help us address the trade problems faced by this sector so that it can continue to play a vital role in our agricultural marketing system.”

Fogarty made her remarks in testimony at a ITC Commissioner hearing on the ongoing study, “Processed Foods: and Beverages: A Description of Tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers for Major Products and Their Impact on Trade.”

GMA’s testimony outlined various import taxes imposed on the food and beverage industry. “On average, tariffs on processed foods are the highest of any sector,” said Fogarty. Duties on products that contain politically sensitive crops, such as sugar, peanuts and dairy, are complex and prohibitive, she added.

Fogarty stated the need for an accurate accounting of these tariffs globally and drew attention to the economic benefits of trade of finished goods. “Every dollar in exports of processed foods generates $1.57 in economic activity and each $1 billion in exports supports 16,700 jobs. Comparatively, the same numbers for bulk foods are $0.81 and 12,700 respectively.”

Fogarty also drew attention to non-tariff trade barriers and said that the ITC focus on this area will allow U.S. to challenge countries that adopt unnecessary regulations that impede trade.

As an example, she pointed to legislation passed in Chile and Canada that essentially bans nutritionally fortified breakfast products. “These regulations are not science-based and are not consistent with current trade rules,” said Fogarty. Diverse mandatory labeling requirements for biotech foods and overly zealous requirements for export certificates were also identified as significant barriers to trade.

GMA is the world’s largest association of food, beverage and consumer product companies. With U.S. sales of more than $460 billion, GMA members employ more than 2.5 million workers in all 50 states. The organization applies legal, scientific and political expertise from its member companies to vital food, nutrition and public policy issues affecting the industry. Led by a board of 44 Chief Executive Officers, GMA speaks for food and consumer product manufacturers at the state, federal and international levels on legislative and regulatory issues. The association also leads efforts to increase productivity, efficiency and growth in the food, beverage and consumer products industry.