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Thursday, October 16, 2014

US STRENGTHENS TRADING TIES WITH MEXICO: SGT. TAHMOORESSI REMAINS CAPTIVE OVER 200 DAYS

October 16, 2014
This past Sunday, President Obama played his 200th round of golf as president of the United States. And tragically, it has been just over 200 days that Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, a decorated U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran, has languished in a Mexican jail.
In April, Tahmooressi crossed the southern border at San Ysidro by mistake after taking a wrong turn; he was stopped by Mexican officials who found three U.S.-registered guns in his truck. Since Mexico has extremely strict firearms laws, he was taken into custody.
The ensuing six months have been a nightmare for 25-year-old Tahmooressi, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (PTS) stemming from his combat service, and his family. In April, Tahmooressi even attempted to take his own life. Mexican authorities have dragged their feet on the case.
In response, several U.S. government authorities have shown diligence and commitment to the cause of securing Tahmooressi’s release. The U.S. State Department has maintained an open line of communication with the Mexican government on the matter, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee has advocated forcefully for the Marine’s release.
Yet missing in action is the voice of Tahmooressi’s commander in chief—President Barack Obama. When will the president weigh in on behalf of this decorated combat veteran held unjustly in foreign captivity?
Six months into Tahmooressi’s captivity, the president has yet to place a phone call to his counterpart in Mexico, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to discuss the matter and to urge the Marine’s release. But from the president, nothing is heard and when asked, the president’s spokesman punts responsibility to the State Department.
Nor has the president even picked up the phone to contact Tahmooressi’s mother, Jill, who has worked tirelessly on her son’s behalf and recently testified before a Congressional subcommittee about her family’s plight (a hearing at which I [Pete Hegseth] also testified on Tahmooressi’s behalf, along with talk show host and Marine veteran Montel Williams).
But the president’s time is limited, one might argue, since he has to deal with a deteriorating situation in the Middle East, a potential Ebola epidemic and countless worries both domestic and global.
True enough—but one can’t help but to notice that Obama’s tight schedule still allows him plenty of time to attend fundraisers where he rubs elbows with wealthy Democratic donors and Hollywood A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow. And he certainly hasn’t allowed any global disturbances—like terrorists beheading an innocent American journalist or an Ebola briefing—to keep him from playing golf.
Earlier this year, Obama laid down a strong standard for detained service members. In May, the president stood in the Rose Garden to proudly announce that his administration had negotiated the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity in Afghanistan, trading five terrorist killers to the Taliban in exchange for a soldier who reportedly deserted his front-line unit less than two months into his first tour of duty. 

US MOVES TO SECURE TRADE WITH MEXICO (TAHMOORESSI, JUST NOT AN ISSUE)
Many of the goods you use and enjoy every day are imported from Mexico. They include foods such as tomatoes and avocados, FDA-approved medications, and lower-risk medical devices such as surgical drapes and wheelchair components.
In fact, Mexico is the leading exporter of human foods and the second leading exporter of medical devices into the United States. It ranks third in the number of imported lines of animal and human drugs (including antibiotics), biologics, and medicated feed and also is a major exporter of cosmetics and tobacco products to the United States. (A line is each portion of a shipment that is listed as a separate item on documentation submitted when goods are presented for entry at U.S. Customs.)
Foods imported into the United States from Mexico must be produced consistent with U.S. standards, and the Food and Drug Administration works closely with Mexican government regulators to help ensure these foods are safe and fit for U.S. consumption.
To support this regulatory work, and to help facilitate communication with its Mexican counterparts, the FDA, through its Office of International Programs, (OIP) established a local office in Mexico City in 2010. The Mexico office is part of the agency’s Latin America Regional Office (LAO). FDA also has offices in other parts of the world, including China, India, and Europe.
The Office of International Programs champions the FDA’s global work to help ensure the quality and safety of products for all Americans. OIP’s approach supports five key goals.
  • Advance cooperation and communications with regulatory agencies abroad;
  • Strengthen global regulatory systems;
  • Collect and share certain intelligence and information of public health importance;
  • Use global data networks and analytics; and
  • Achieve operational, workforce and organizational excellence.
For instance, ever since President Obama signed FSMA into law in 2011—changing the U.S. food safety focus from responding to food contamination to preventing it—the Mexico office has participated in, and organized, outreach events and conferences to inform stakeholders about FSMA and the proposed rules for its implementation. Delivering more than 40 presentations in the past two years alone, the office consistently updates and shares important information with Mexican authorities and industry groups.
Recently, the office helped to facilitate communications surrounding the first official trip of FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., to Mexico. She and other FDA leaders—including Michael R. Taylor, J.D., Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine—participated in a series of meetings with officials of the Mexican government and industry in order to strengthen the agency’s cooperation with its regulatory counterparts.
The Commissioner also signed a Statement of Intent announcing the FDA-Mexico Produce Safety Partnership, which focuses on preventive practices and verification measures supporting compliance with produce safety standards, guidelines and best practices. With this new partnership in place, FDA expects to help improve the safety of fruits and vegetables for consumers on both sides of the border.
“The process of importation is complicated,” Ross explains. “There’s a huge volume of trade between Mexico and the United States in general—not just for FDA-regulated products—and it’s been growing rapidly and substantively since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 20 years ago.”
Ross and his staff continue to make strides in improving communication between FDA and its Mexican counterparts. “Our goal right now is to make sure the Mexican authorities are aware of changes implemented under FSMA, and that we are aware of their food safety law amendments. Our presence in Mexico enables us to talk regularly and frequently with our counterparts and stakeholders about key issues related to the products FDA regulates,” he says.
“This communication helps us respond quickly and collaboratively when issues are identified, supporting FDA’s mission to protect and promote the public health,” Ross notes. “In addition, these efforts have resulted in the Mexican government pursuing regulatory actions against its own domestic products based on information we provided.”

Sources:  The Hill