With an end-of-the-month deadline looming, the National Pork Producers Council is urging Congress and the Bush Administration to push for an ambitious deal for U.S. pork producers in a trade agreement between the United States and South Korea.

 The Administration must notify Congress by March 31, of its intent to sign a free-trade agreement with South Korea so that it can have the deal considered by lawmakers under “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority, which is set to expire June 30. TPA requires Congress to consider trade agreements without amendments and to act on them within 90 days of being submitted.

In a statement submitted the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, which held a hearing on the ongoing trade negotiations between the United States and South Korea, NPPC officials pointed out that although the Asian nation is the fourth largest export market for U.S. pork, a free-trade agreement between South Korea and Chile could put America’s pork industry at a competitive disadvantage.

Korean import tariffs on many pork products supplied by Chile have been declining under the FTA's terms, which took effect in 2004. Chilean pork will receive unlimited duty-free access by 2014.

“South Korea is an important export market for U.S. pork producers, but further growth is imperiled by increased South Korean imports of Chilean pork,” says NPPC President Jill Appell, a pork producer from Altona, Ill. “The United States must step up to the plate and deliver aggressive tariff cuts on all U.S. pork and pork products.”

Last February, the United States entered trade negotiations with South Korea, a country where pork constitutes about 45 percent of daily meat protein consumption.

Source: National Pork Producers Council