This fall, the World Trade Organization will negotiate rules that will affect your business long term.

Ten years ago, U.S. pork producers faced a frustrating situation: Japanese consumers wanted fresh, quality pork and you had it, but trade barriers prevented any meaningful exports. Today, however, Japan is U.S. pork's largest export market. What changed?

Opening up global markets to U.S. pork and other commodities came in part as a result of the World Trade Organization negotiations held in Uruguay. Those trade agreements, implemented in 1995, established trade rules for agricultural products and chipped away at heavy agricultural subsidies and import barriers.

That was nearly five years ago. Since then, U.S. pork exports have increased 86 percent in volume and 80 percent in value. And, says Nick Giordano, international trade counsel for the National Pork Producers Council, those exports have a significant impact on the price you get for your hogs. One study shows the loss of exports in 1997, for example, would have cut cash hog prices by $15.73 per head.

Fast-forward to 1999. In November, a new round of trade negotiations will begin in Seattle, Wash., where agriculture will be one of the central topics. Trade officials and negotiators from more than 150 world governments will attend.

"We only stand to gain through trade agreements and the upcoming negotiations, which is why we will aggressively participate in the process," says Giordano.

Here's how the process works: New negotiations kick off in late November at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle, a four-day event where representatives from participating countries will set the scope, structure and time-frame for the negotiations. The U.S. Trade Representative, officials from USDA and others will represent the United States.

NPPC and other ag organizations have already been lobbying on issues they think will help U.S. farmers. For example, ag groups do not want agriculture to be sectioned off and negotiated separately. American Farm Bureau President Dean Kleckner says, "Without
agriculture being part of the negotiations for all sectors, it will remove the incentives for other countries to re-main at the negotiating table until the full package is settled."

Decisions on which agreements the United States will push for also are under debate, but parties generally agree that eliminating additional trade barriers, including subsidies, is on the list.

NPPC has made known its own wish list for U.S. pork producers, including tariff reductions and fast-track authority. (See the sidebar for the list.)

Amidst all this preparation, USDA and USTR officials say they want one important ingredient: input from you. "The negotiations will just be launched in November," Gus Schumacher, USDA secretary says. "The issues will still need input throughout."

NPPC's Giordano suggests passing your opinions for the WTO negotiations on to him. You can call the NPPC Washington, D.C. office at (202) 347-3600, or e-mail Giordano at

U.S. Pork's Trade Wish List

The National Pork Producers Council sees the possibility of big benefits for you from the upcoming World Trade Organization negotiations. Here's part of what NPPC says needs to happen:

  • Renew traditional fast-track trade negotiating authority.
  • The scope of the negotiations should be broad; a sectioned approach will not work for agriculture.
  • The negotiations should conclude in three years.
  • Pork's No. 1 priority: the accelerated reduction of tariffs. U.S. ag tariffs average only about 5 percent, while other countries average 50 percent and some products still have tariffs of more than 200 percent.
  • Eliminate export subsidies.
  • The United States must be allowed to be a reliable supplier of agricultural products: pursue a supply-assurance agreement that would end the possibility of discrimination against foreign purchasers.
  • Reform the WTO Trade Dispute Settlement Understanding by eliminating loopholes that hold up the fair settlement of disputes between countries.
  • Pursue improved access for U.S. pork to specific countries like Japan and the European Union.