NPA warns of potential dangers of US trade deal

The NPA has urged the country’s next Prime Minister to ensure any future trade deal with the US does not open our doors to pork that would be illegal to produce in this country.

A post-Brexit US-UK trade deal rose to the top of the agenda again this week, as president Donald Trump visited the UK, telling outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May he is expecting a ‘very, very substantial trade deal’.

The visit took place as the Conservative Party prepares to elect a new leader and Prime Minister over the next few weeks. Prime Minister Theresa May and Defra Secretary Michael Gove have both repeatedly insisted UK farming would not be compromised by post-Brexit trade deals. But the NPA pointed out that neither will be in the same post as the negotiations unfold, if as expected, Mr Gove moves to a new role under the next leader, or is successful, himself.

The US Government and pork industry have made it clear that they want to see the ‘elimination of impediments’ currently imposed by the EU on US meat products under a future US-UK deal. EU restrictions on various practices that are widespread in the US currently act as an effective ban on US meat imports.

In a recent article in Pig World, Nick Giordano, of the US National Pork Producers Council, outlined some of the practices the industry would insist on being permitted, including:

  • Replacing the current Tariff Rate Quotas with zero-tariff access for US pork.
  • Dropping barriers to trade based on pork produced with feed additive ractopamine.
  • Dropping the EU requirement that the US conduct trichinae risk mitigation, such as testing or freezing as a condition for market access.
  • Permitting ‘Pathogen Reduction Treatments’ in meat production.
  • Recognising the US plant inspection system as equivalent to the UK system and allowing the importation of pork from USDA-approved plants without equivocation.

There are also vast differences between the US and UK over how pigs are kept. Sow stalls, banned in the UK 20 years ago, are still widely used in the US, even though some major companies are trying to phase out ‘gestation crates’.

Furthermore, the huge strides made by the UK pig industry to reduce antibiotic use in recent years have not been matched in the US, where usage remains high.

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “When push comes to shove, it might be tempting for the next Prime Minister to make concessions on agriculture to get a deal through in order to benefit other sectors of the UK economy. But this would disastrous for UK pork producers and consumers.

“While there has been a lot of focus on chlorine washed chicken and hormone beef, there is also a huge gap in standards between the UK and US pig sectors – from the use of ractopamine to the continued use of sow stalls and much higher use of antibiotics in the US.

“As a result, US pork is much cheaper to produce. Allowing product made using methods banned in the UK into the country would be a betrayal of UK pig producers and the high standards of production they are proud to adhere to. It would also be hugely unpopular with consumers.”

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.