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Pork producers seek USTR engagement with Vietnam

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Trans-Pacific trade partners and European Union have a trade advantage over U.S. in Vietnamese pork imports.

Vietnam represents one of the most significant near-term export market opportunity for U.S. pork. However, the United States faces several unwarranted tariff and non-tariff barriers that prevent U.S. pork producers from supplying his major pork consuming nation which right now is dealing with African swine fever in its domestic herds, says National Pork Producers Council’s President Jen Sorenson, communications director for Iowa Select Farms in West Des Moines, Iowa.

During the NPPC Legislative Action Conference held in mid-April, NPPC members urged action from the U.S. government as lawmakers were urged to sign a letter co-sponsored by Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis., Darin LaHood, R-Ill., Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., and Jim Costa, D-Calif., to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, seeking her support for enhanced Vietnamese market access for U.S. pork.

Domestic pork consumption in Vietnam is greater than 2.5 million metric tons (MT) per year, more than Mexico, where the United States exported 688,252 MT, valued at $1.1 billion in 2020. Last year, U.S. pork producers only exported 25,183 MT to Vietnam, valued at $54 million.

Maria Zieba, assistant vice president of international affairs, “All we’re asking for is for USTR, Ambassador Tai, to engage with the Vietnamese during their conversations in the context of the conversations that are already happening around those trade cases that tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade be eliminated,” Zieba says. “We think that there’s a lot that could be accomplished in those negotiations, and we just want to be part of the conversation.”

Nick Giordano, NPPC vice president and counsel, global government affairs, says it is unfortunate that Vietnam has African Swine Fever in its herds, which has increased their demand for pork. Trade deals Vietnam is in with Comprehensive and Progress Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the European Union have put U.S. producers at a disadvantage, Giordano says.

“Unfortunately, we’re at a disadvantage to the CPTPP countries and the European Union who basically got the deal that we negotiated,” he says of the United States’ previous negotiations in the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Last year the Vietnamese rolled back the duties on U.S. products to put the U.S. on parity with the other countries involved in their trade deals. “It helped us a lot, but that expired at the end of the year,” Giordana says.

“We’re hoping that Ambassador Tai and her team will push forward. There’s a lot of opportunity,” he continues. “We have a trade imbalance with Vietnam, and for pork alone, it is a great candidate to put a dent in that trade imbalance.”

He says there is bipartisan support on the Hill, and NPPC is optimistic that the U.S. government “already is taking this request very seriously.”

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