Forty food and agriculture organizations sent a letter to every congressional lawmaker, urging them to approve permanent normal trade relations status for Vietnam as soon as Congress reconvenes in mid-November. PNTR would allow U.S. exporters to take advantage of Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization.

In May, the U.S. and Vietnam finalized an agreement on market access, which paved the way for the Asian country to join the WTO. Under the agreement, tariff rates for about 75 percent of U.S. agricultural exports to Vietnam, including pork, will decline to WTO-bound duty rates of 15 percent or less. The tariffs on pork variety meats, which are in high demand in Vietnam, will decline from a rate of 20 percent to 8 percent in four years from the time of implementation. Tariffs on most other pork products will be reduced by 50 percent in five years.

Vietnam also has made numerous improvements to its implementation of WTO rules on sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures and has agreed to recognize the U.S. inspection system for pork as equivalent to its inspection system.           

Pointing out that pork represents 72 percent of the meat consumed by Vietnam’s 84 million people, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, the Vietnamese accession deal will increase U.S. pork variety meat exports to Vietnam to $16.5 million by 2012 from $3 million in 2004 and will raise live hog prices by $0.52, or 4.4 percent of producer profits.

Providing normal trade status for Vietnam through periodic extensions was never a controversial matter. Congress has consistently authorized maintaining normal trade status for the country by overwhelming majorities. In 2002, the last year in which Congress temporarily extended the status, there was a strong, bipartisan showing of support, with 338 House lawmakers voting in favor of it. The United States already provides PNTR to all of the 149 other WTO members.

Source: National Pork Producers Council