With the three free-trade agreements finally closing in on approval, attention is turning toward other markets, most notably Vietnam. National Pork Producers Council representatives recently visited with World Trade Organization (WTO) representatives from Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines to discuss trade issues. These markets continue to limit trade through numerous barriers, prompting NPPC President Doug Wolf and Vice President and Counsel for International Affairs Nick Giordano to initiate discussions about market access issues related to U.S. pork.

The countries represent a potentially large market for U.S. pork, particularly Vietnam, which is part of the current Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. According to Dermott Hayes, Iowa State University economist, if all barriers, including current tariffs were removed, the United States could ship approximately $600 million worth of pork to Vietnam alone.

However, the Vietnamese have pork production plans of their own. This week, country officials announced plans to modernize pork production by moving from backyard systems to modern, commercial operations.

The goal is to raise productivity, efficiency and competitive capacity, says Hoang Kim Giao, director general of the Livestock Production Department under Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Giao points to the Vietnam Livestock Development Strategy that the country’s pig population would increase from 27.37 million in 2010 to 35 million by 2020. The strategy also includes increases in milk and poultry production. By 2020, the livestock industry target is to produce 6.7 million tons of meat, 14.5 billion eggs and 1 million tons of milk. Giao adds that the focus will be on quality, not just quantity.

But beyond filling Vietnam’s domestic demand, the plan includes expanding the country’s exports by 2015, Giao says.

To support the gains in food-animal production, Vietnam also has plans to increase livestock feed production to 16.3 million tons by 2015 and 19.2 million tons by 2020, up from 10.5 million in 2010.

To accomplish these goals, Vietnam will offer preferential policies to encouraged investment in building modern farms, slaughterhouses and meat processing facilities, including financial support from the government to build infrastructure and extended land-lease terms and low fees.