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Speaker Says NAFTA Vital for Future of Pork Exports

by Emma Hopkins

Published: Friday, February 9, 2018

At Indiana Pork's Annual Meeting last week, officers and checkoff members discussed the updates of various committees, plans for year to come and hosted the director of international affairs for the National Pork Producers Council as a keynote speaker.

In 2017, Indiana Pork spent more money on research. Their nutrient manage-ment committee participated in the Infield Advantage Program, two watershed projects, and two research projects on odor mitigation and public outreach. Research plans for 2018 focus on communication among producers and public education.

Indiana Pork's youth committee is working on refocusing themselves by opening opportuni-ties for Indiana youth, such as interfacing with companies to include them in university career fairs and exposing show industry youth to career opportunities and commercial pork production.

"In 2018, three areas we want to focus on are education, commercial production and the show industry," said Melinda Anderson, youth com-mittee chair. "How can we get those three pieces to connect, to show the whole picture of Indiana pork?"

This year they hope to start a new scholarship and ambassador program. Other updates included a review of the Indiana State Fair, during which Indiana Pork Day and the Indiana Pork tent were well attended.

After lunch, keynote speaker Maria Zieba, who just came back from the latest rounds of NAFTA negotiations in Canada, de-livered a presentation on the state of trade relations and free trade agreements presently, and explained NPPC's trade priorities.

Like much of the agricultural industry in the U.S., pork producers greatly benefit from NAFTA and other free trade agreements. With talk of the U.S. withdrawing from NAFTA and President Trump threatening to use withdraw from NAFTA as a "tactic" against trading partners, panic was incited last April when a with-draw nearly went through.

"The notice to withdraw was written by the administration," Zieba said. "When that happened, the story is Sonny Perdue went to the White House without an appointment and he stood there and said,'Let me in. I need to talk to the president' and he didn't leave until they let him."

Perdue was able to convince Trump to reconsider withdrawing from NAFTA completely when he showed a map of states the president won in the election, and pointed out that those states were ones heavily reliant on agricultural trade. He explained if the withdraw were to go through, many who voted for Trump would be upset, which would hurt the Republican Party.

NPPC and producers alike are concerned about losses the industry would suffer if a withdraw were to occur. These fears seem justified considering Japan—the highest-value ex-port market for U.S. ag—will be signing TTP and a new free trade agreement with the United Kingdom. The TTP free trade agreement was one which took eight years for the U.S. to negotiate. Now, countries in Europe as well as Canada will be benefitting from TTP instead of the U.S., threatening the Japanese export market.

"If you put into context that we export more than $1 billion to Japan and close to $1 billion to China, but then 20 small countries like Central America—Mexico and Canada—outweigh the rest of the world, it's quite signif-icant," Zieba said. "This is why we keep pushing on the importance of trade to the industry. Without these markets, we would really suffer."

Zieba said the U.S. agriculture industry exports more to the 20 coun-tries with which the U.S. has free trade agreements than with the rest of the world combined, on top of the fact that about 100,000 jobs in the U.S. rely on exports—many of which exist in the Midwest. The pork sector is no excep-tion—$50 of every hog grown in the U.S. can be attributed to exports, and without those exports, hog parts such as kidneys would be thrown away or sent to rendering.

Without NAFTA, Zieba said those 20 countries would look elsewhere for their pork. Mexico is second to Japan in U.S. ag exports, followed by China and South Korea. KORUS, the five-year-old free trade agreement the U.S. negotiated with South Korea, is also up for renegotia-tion.

NPPC Priorities

NPPC intends to fight alongside other ag organizations to protect what U.S. pork producers have with NAFTA. A second priority is protecting the KORUS agreement, and third protecting market access to China.

"We need to do what we can to maintain these markets because if suddenly they dis-appear, we would face oversupply domestically," Zieba said. "We've pushed the administration to work on Mexico and Canada and Korea, because they make up half of our exports."

The NPPC would also like to move forward on market access in smaller countries such as Brazil, India, Thailand and Asia Pacific, which are key markets that are growing. Should the U.S. withdraw from NAFTA, NPPC is looking into trade with smaller coun-tries, hoping they can be easy wins, given the administration has not worked on any bilateral trade agreements. Though those countries are estimated to only be about $10 million markets, there is hope that trading with enough of them could absorb some of the shock a loss of NAFTA would bring.

Zieba said there is frustration with the Trump administration because, along with threatening to withdraw from NAFTA, the administration has still not ap-pointed an ag ambassador despite being a year into office. The ag ambassador position is assigned so the industry has someone at the table negotiating agreements for agriculture.

With the next round of negotiations beginning February 26, Zieba said it is more important than ever for those in the ag industry to let their voices be heard, because withdraw is still a definite, even likely outcome.

"I think before April of last year, the administration thought we would go along with anything, but in recent months, as we have become more vocal, ag has become big-ger and bigger," she said. "We need to keep up that momentum."

She said NPPC is working very hard to stay in agreements. Though they recognize some updates need to be made—for instance allowing U.S. dairy market access—they are firm on the need for the U.S. to stay in the NAFTA and KORUS agreements.

"We need to be able to continue the path that we were on to expand, because we have a proven rec-ord of doing really well in export markets," Zieba said.

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