The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, and the prospects for approval have increased considerably following a recent announcement by key Democratic leaders in support of the revised agreement. While U.S. pork, beef and lamb currently enter Mexico and Canada duty-free under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation says ratification of USMCA will help solidify the three nations' trading relationship and bolster confidence in the U.S. industry's ability to provide consistent, reliable supplies of red meat to these two important markets.
"Because Mexico and Canada are two of our key destinations for all three species -- beef, pork and lamb -- it was essential to get this done to really solidify our reputation as a reliable suppliers. The agreement does not change anything in terms of zero duty to both countries. That remains the same, but what it does do is it really eliminates some of the uncertainty surrounding these markets," Halstrom says. "To my point, when retaliatory duties in Mexico on pork were in place of 20%, we definitely saw loss share, but even more importantly, we saw a loss in reputation in terms of us being a long-term, reliable week in and week out supplier to Mexico, and even more important in the lost share was the fact that really we saw a direct correlation to the 20% duty to a drop in our value of exports."
Halstrom says it is crucial to get the agreement done in terms of maximizing the value back to the beef, pork and lamb producers in the U.S. and also to assure a long-term flow of product at zero duty. He also recognizes that getting Congressional approval required intense negotiations at many levels and thanks the Trump administration officials for their persistence.
"What we really need to say is a big thank you to USTR and USDA for not giving up," Halstrom says. "We found common ground and we found common ground that really works to the benefit of a lot of industries, but no one bigger than agriculture because this is a big value proposition for the U.S. beef, pork and lamb producers."