Science and fact, not perception, must be the basis of US-UK trade deal

Nick Giordano, Vice President and Counsel, Global Government Affairs of the National Pork Producers Council in the US, outlines the barriers that must be overcome ahead of a possible UK-US trade deal

There is a saying, often referred to as an ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

Whatever its origin, the phrase rings true to us at the National Pork Producers Council. The US pork industry is expanding – new processing operations are coming on line and the herd is growing amid exciting innovation.

But the industry faces challenges as well. The most important being for the US pork industry to eliminate barriers to foreign markets.

Access to international markets has driven our expansion. The US over the past 11 years, on average, has been the top pork exporting country worldwide. US exports of pork in 2017 added, on average, over 35% to the value of each hog.

Through well-designed free trade agreements, the US exports more pork to the 20 countries with which it has agreements than to all other nations combined.

The challenge is to continue to develop a level playing field across all export markets.

Key to a thriving pork industry are markets that are free from all tariff and non-tariff barriers and that accept modern, science-based production methods that meet international standards.

While it is encouraging to hear US and UK officials express their desire to enter into free trade negotiations, any agreement must eliminate these impediments.

Specifically, a free trade agreement with the UK must be based on Codex and other science- based standards, not European Union standards that have defined Britain’s trade policy to date.

While the EU has made a science of disparaging food from the US, the reality is that the US provides the safest, highest quality pork and other food products in the world.

Science, not perception, and fact, not allegations, must be the basis of any US-UK trade deal.

Of significant concern:

Tariffs
The current Tariff Rate Quotas, which significantly restrict US pork imports with high in-quota duties and high out-of-quota tariffs, must be replaced with zero-tariff access for US pork.

Ractopamine ban
Europe bans the use of ractopamine in pork production and the import of pork produced with ractopamine. There is no science-based risk assessment to justify this and US pork producers already meet an international residue standard set by the UN’s Codex Alimentarius Commission. A trade agreement with the UK must drop barriers to trade based on pork produced with ractopamine.

Trichinae Mitigation
The EU requirement that the US conduct trichinae risk mitigation, such as testing or freezing as a condition for market access, must be dropped. According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, there is negligible risk of trichinae in the US commercial pig herd because of high biosecurity protocols and modern production systems.

Pathogen Reduction Treatments
These treatments have been scientifically proven to produce a safer product by reducing the risk of bacterial contamination. The UN’s Codex Alimentarius has recognised the safety of these treatments in meat production when used in accordance with good manufacturing practices.

Plant Inspection Equivalency
Pork in the US is safe and wholesome. US pork producers in America expect the UK to recognise the US plant inspection system as equivalent to its system and to allow the importation of pork from USDA-approved plants without equivocation.

If our governments can eliminate these and other barriers to market entry in the pork sector, then our markets will become more efficient, our products cheaper and our food supply safer.

We will be in a stronger position to address the challenge of keeping food affordable and available to an expanding global population.

The EU’s precautionary stance is a cancerous approach that will stifle innovation and will put significant upward pressure on global food prices.

American pork producers want, and what all producers across the world should want, is a level playing field and a science-based approach to production.

Establishing these market conditions will mitigate uncertainty, breed innovation, spur growth and keep food affordable.

These may be interesting times, but together we can turn that from a curse into a blessing.

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