A ship sits by a pier while being loaded with containers National Pork Board

U.S. pork needs to be on global trade table

U.S. pig farmers produce the safest, most wholesome pork in the world. They are almost too good at what they do. New processing plants are coming online, and producers are expanding to help fill the added shackle space in the near future.

Americans love pork, but they can only eat so much, which means that we need to look elsewhere for buyers of U.S. pork. Currently more than 25% of U.S. pork production heads to export channels, and pork is the most widely consumed animal protein in the world. A lot seems to be going in the favor of the U.S. pork producer. But then …

President Donald Trump has followed through on the campaign promise to pull the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership which would have opened the doors to 11 other countries, the most notable being Japan.

Japan is a potential growth market for U.S. pork, but the European Union may have beat us to the punch as the EU and Japan announced the workings of a trade deal. The U.S. swine industry also wants a piece of that action, as the National Pork Producers Council asked the administration to pursue a bilateral trade agreement with Japan. NPPC’s request was issued as soon as the president’s final keystroke of his Tweet, or however he announced that the TPP would go on without the United States.

It remains to be seen if the United States and Japan can work out a deal, but Japan isn’t the only market of concern. Trump has backpedaled from an all-out withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement, instead moving forward with renegotiating the trade pact between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Talks are set to begin Aug. 16. It never hurts to revisit trade deals that have been in place, as countries change, products change; heck the world has changed an awful lot since NAFTA came into force in 1994. Hopefully U.S. negotiators do not sell pork producers short, or at least honor the request to “do no harm.”

Maintaining, with potential to improve, existing trade agreements is high on the wish list for the U.S. pork industry. Next in line is expanding our list of trade partners. The United States currently has 20 free trade agreements, with the NPPC hoping Japan will become No. 21. But who’s next?

Everyone wants to feed the Chinese, but others on the U.S. pork trade wish list include Vietnam, Philippines and India.

Whenever there are presidential changes, the entire political scene changes, and not just domestically. We are quickly finding out that the Trump administration is not holding back to make America great again. The political scene can quickly muddy the trade scene, but let’s hope that our leaders “do no harm.”

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