National Pork Producers Council president Keith Berry today applauded President Bush and his trade negotiators for finalizing free trade agreement negotiations with the Dominican Republic. The Central America Free Trade Agreement negotiations had been concluded in the last few months with the nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. There is speculation that the Dominican Republic deal will be ‘docked’ onto the existing agreement with these five countries. Considered alone or in combination with the CAFTA countries, Berry praised this agreement with the Dominican Republic as one that will bring significant new market access to U.S. pork producers once implemented.

"The negotiators from the Dominican Republic wanted to provide only minimal access to U.S. pork, but U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Zoellick and Chief Agriculture Negotiator Ambassador Allen Johnson, supported completely by President Bush and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, did not let us down," said Berry, a pork producer from Green Castle, Indiana. "Our future is heavily dependent on expanding access for U.S. pork in foreign markets," he said. "Since 1995, when the Uruguay Round Agreement went into effect, U.S. pork exports to the world have increased over 150 percent. While we remain focused on the World Trade Organization agriculture negotiations as providing the greatest future potential payoff to our producers, we are very excited about the agreement with the Dominican Republic because it will provide significant new opportunity to our producers."

Under the terms of the deal there will be both immediate and phased-in concessions on pork and pork products. A significant tariff rate quota will be established through which the U.S. can immediately ship pork tariff free within the quota. The size of the quota will increase each year and the out-of-quota tariff will decrease over time. The quota and the tariffs will be eliminated after the 15-year phase-in period.

With respect to non-tariff issues, Berry praised the U.S. negotiators for obtaining a commitment from the Dominican Republic to abolish all non-tariff measures, such as restrictive licensing practices, that have reduced virtually halted trade in recent years.  He noted that some further work needs to be done to ensure that the Dominican Republic recognizes the U.S. meat inspection system and implement transparent import procedures.

National Pork Producers Council