The National Pork Producers Council has requested the Australian government to avoid restricting imports of U.S. pork. NPPC fears that the Australian government’s Productivity Commission may issue a recommendation that would limit pork imports. Citing the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which became effective in 2005, NPPC said the U.S. pork industry should be excluded from cutbacks.

The World Trade Organization, however, allows WTO member countries to impose for up to 200 days provisional safeguard measures if “a surge of imports causes or threatens to cause serious material injury to a domestic industry.”

“The U.S. pork industry urges the Australian government not to take unjustified and unwarranted actions against U.S. pork imports,” said NPPC president Jill Appell. “Government protection will reward inefficient Australian pork producers and punish Australian consumers, who undoubtedly will be paying more for their hams, bacon and pepperoni.

 “This will be an important litmus test of the new Australian government’s free trade credentials,” added Appell.”

NPPC pointed out that the economic trouble in the Australian pork industry is being experienced by pork producers around the world. The dynamics of the hog cycle and high feed costs due to drought and increased ethanol production have put a cost squeeze on pork producers, said the organization.

“U.S. pork imports are not the cause of Australia’s problems,” Appell said. “Just like producers in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Mexico and places all over the world, Australian pork producers are having a hard time. The situation in Australia is not special or unique.”

Australia now is one of the top destinations for U.S. pork, with exports topping $65 million in the first nine months of 2007.

Source: NPPC