Already the world’s leading exporter of pork, the United States can further improve its export opportunities through a pair of multi-national trade partnerships. 

The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership provides a great opportunity for the United States to increase trade with its closest competitor of pork exports. The partnership involves the United States and 27 member nations of the European Union, also a global leader in pork exports and pork consumption.

In 2012, the United States surpassed the EU as the world’s largest exporter of pork, with $6.3 billion in sales, said Becca Hendricks, assistant vice president of international marketing for the Pork Checkoff in a presentation May 5 at the World Pork Expo. The U.S. also shipped pork to more than 115 countries in 2012, and exports accounted for 27 percent of all U.S. pork and pork product sales, she added.

If the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks are successful for the U.S., its leading position should be solidified. Currently, only 0.25 percent of the pork consumed in the EU is from the U.S.

“This is one of the largest pork consuming regions, so the opportunity is tremendous,” said Laurie Hueneke, director of international trade policy, sanitary and technical issues for the National Pork Producers Council.

Countries in the European Union have imposed trade barriers that have hindered the United States. Among those are bans on ractopamine, trichinae mitigation requirements and prohibition on pathogen reduction treatments. However, Hueneke is confident EU nations will realize U.S. pork is safe and some of those barriers can be lifted.

“There are a lot of issues that we have on the table. We view the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as an opportunity to engage, remove these barriers to trade, and export more U.S. pork to countries that consume a significant amount of pork,” she said.

Negotiations within the Trans-Atlantic Partnership are expected to begin in early July.

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Export opportunities appear to be growing for the U.S., as the number of nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership is also growing. What was a four-member partnership in 2006 has 10 members in 2013, with Japan soon to become the 11th.

Member nations – the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – have agreed Japan’s admission is a good thing, but the formal approval process remains to be completed.

The United States pork industry has been subjected to high tariffs from some Trans-Pacific Partnership nations. Hueneke is hopeful tariffs will be less of a hindrance after trade talks commence.

“The exciting part of this agreement is we can reduce the tariffs on U.S. pork and pork products. We’re already the lowest-cost producer in the world, and this just improves our competitiveness in these markets,” she said.

Hueneke also hopes some of the sanitary or phytosanitary barriers will be lifted as a result of trade talks. Specific examples Hueneke mentioned include trichinae regulations imposed by Chile, and porcine reproductive and respritatory syndrome restrictions placed by Australia and New Zealand. Most of those barriers have little scientific merit, she said, but are based more on protecting the nations’ own domestic production.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership provides leverage for the U.S. to negotiate and remove these barriers and move more products into these countries,” she said.

The Obama administration originally expected an agreement to be reached by the end of 2013. Because of the recent move to include Japan into the partnership, that deadline might not be met.