Trade spat threatens to reverse progress on pork exports
By TIM HEARDEN
The National Pork Producers Council is lamenting that a top U.S. export destination is imposing a 5 percent tariff on most pork sent there.
Mexico, which last year bought $762 million worth of U.S. pork, recently added the meat to its list of products hit with tariffs in retaliation for the suspension of a pilot program that allowed Mexican trucks to travel U.S. highways.
"Certainly it's going to have some negative effect on producers because we are now going in with that 5 percent tariff, whereas the Canadian pork producers and Chilean pork producers, who are competitors in that market, are going in at a zero tariff rate," NPPC spokesman Dave Warner said.
"We don't know the extent of the effects, but certainly it will have a negative effect," Warner said. "Hopefully it won't be big, but we still need to get this issue resolved. And not just because we're going to suffer a little bit here, but also because if the U.S. isn't going to live up to its trade obligations, other countries are going to think twice about entering trade agreements with us."
The U.S. sent 503,503 metric tons of pork to Mexico in 2009, and through June was on a pace to ship 270,000 metric tons there in 2010, Warner said. As pork shipments to most markets dropped in 2009, Mexico was one of the few places where the U.S. saw an increase, he said.
The NPPC and other farm groups agree with Mexico's assertion that the U.S. hasn't lived up to its obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement, under which the U.S. was supposed to begin allowing Mexican trucks into the country in 1995.
An 18-month pilot program ended in March 2009 when Congress passed legislation at the urging of U.S. trucking and union interests.
The NPPC rejects arguments by the Teamsters Union and other groups that safety would be an issue for Mexican trucks.
"The trucks that come into the United States have to meet the same safety standards of trucks that are hauling now," Warner said.
The organization wants Congress or the Obama administration to reinstate the trucking program.
"We're asking them to resolve the issue," Warner said.
National Pork Producers Council: http://www.nppc.org