NPPC holding firm on trade positions

By Spencer Chase

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2015 - As trade talks heat up on Capitol Hill and across the globe, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) isn't interested in making concessions to speed up a deal.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, NPPC officials said they are committed to good trade agreements across both oceans for the pork industry. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among Pacific Rim countries is seen as closer to fruition - but still a ways off - than the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) between the U.S. and European Union. Both negotiations have potential for expanded markets for pork producers, but NPPC is also keeping a keen eye on the agreements to ensure that their industry is protected.

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Most notably, NPPC feels there has been progress with Japan on its “sacred” agricultural product exemptions, which would bar U.S. pork and other products from entering the country.

“We've always wanted Japan in TPP,” NPPC President Howard Hill said. “But if they were not going to change their policy and have as many exemptions as they want, we were not going to get eventual total free access to that market, then yes, we would oppose them being in (the TPP agreement) and would expect them to probably come in at a later date.”

“We think there's been progress,” NPPC CEO Neil Deirks said in reference to talks with Japan. “Our position remains reduced tariffs, increased access, but we know without (Trade Promotion Authority), even if there's a perfect deal, it's all for naught most likely.”

TPA would allow the administration to negotiate a trade package and submit it to Congress for an up-or-down vote without any amendments. Dierks said the fact that 12 countries are involved in TPP talks will complicate things, and TPA could give U.S. negotiators some certainty in process. He said NPPC is involved in lobbying efforts both as a standalone organization and in coalitions reaching out to a wide variety of lawmakers and pushing the importance of the legislation.

Ron Prestage, NPPC president elect, said it is critical for groups like NPPC to push Congress to act on TPA to prevent the U.S. from being left in the dust in the negotiations.

“The rest of the world's not sitting still,” Prestage said. “We're negotiating with 11 other countries on TPP, but we decide to stick our head in the hole and not move forward and not push Congress to go forward with TPA, the rest of the world is going to take advantage of that opportunity in those countries, with or without us.”

Prestage added that as tough as negotiations have been with Japan and other TPP nations, upcoming T-TIP talks with the E.U. will be “10 times harder.”

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