The US pork industry has insisted the UK must accept US standards under any post-Brexit trade deal.
Writing in the January issue of Pig World, Nick Giordano, Vice President and Counsel, Global Government Affairs of the US National Pork Producers Council, set out the industry’s uncompromising position on future trade in pork between the two nations.
As debate continues to rage in the UK over the threat posed to producers by potential imports of cheaper, lower standards food products after we leave the EU, Mr Giordano claimed the US provides ‘the safest, highest quality pork and other food products in the world’.
While the US pork industry is expanding, the biggest challenge it faces is eliminating barriers to foreign markets, he said.
“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,” he wrote.
“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.”
Mr Giordano highlighted a number of issues of specific concern, including:
- The current Tariff Rate Quotas, which significantly restrict US pork imports to the EU
- The EU’s ban on imports of pork produced with ractopamine, which he said was not justified by the science
- The EU requirement that the US conduct trichinae risk mitigation, such as testing or freezing as a condition for market access.
- The EU’s opposition to Pathogen Reduction Treatments, which he said have been scientifically proven to produce a safer product
- US pork producers in America expect the UK to recognise the US pork plant inspection system as equivalent to its system.
He described the EU’s precautionary stance as ‘a cancerous approach that will stifle innovation and will put significant upward pressure on global food prices’.
“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,” Mr Giordano added.
“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.”
This stance was echoed by the US administration in comments after the first tentative steps were taken in the process of developing a future US-UK trade deal.
While UK Cabinet Ministers, including Trade and Industry Secretary Liam Fox and Defra Secretary Michael Gove, have repeatedly insisted lower standard imports would not be permitted in future, they have so far refused to commit to this in legislation.
In a recent report, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee urged the Government to ‘put its money where its mouth is’ and accept an amendment to the Agriculture Bill.
It stipulated that imported food products under future trade deals ‘should meet or exceed British standards relating to production, animal welfare and the environment’. MPs from various parties demanded action on this as the Bill was discussed in the Commons.
Farming Minister George Eustice has indicated that the Government is unlikely to accept the amendment, however.
In another twist, US president Donald Trump cast doubt on whether a US-UK trade deal would be possible given the how Theresa May’s EU Brexit agreement ties the UK to EU rules, a claim disputed by the UK.
A recent report by AHDB Pork comparing international costs of pork production showed US pig producers, on average, produced pigs at an average cost of 50p/kg below the GB figure in 2017.
The cost of rearing pigs in Great Britain increased by 8% in 2017, to £1.37/kg, broadly in line with the average EU figure of £1.36/kg, while the US figure was just 0.86p/kg.