With the trade clock ticking toward midnight, the National Pork Producers Council today urged Congress to renew the law giving U.S. presidents authority to negotiate trade agreements and asked the Bush Administration to strike a deal in the World Trade Organization talks that is beneficial to pork producers.

Trade Promotion Authority, which expires June 30, allows the president to negotiate trade agreements with other countries and requires Congress to approve without amendments – or disapprove – those deals. It gives trading partners confidence that the agreements they negotiate with the United States will not be renegotiated by federal lawmakers. President Bush in a speech today in New York City asked for the TPA extension.

“Every president should have TPA, and we applaud President Bush for asking that it be renewed,” says NPPC President Joy Philippi, a pork producer from Bruning, Neb. “It’s essential that the U.S. continue to negotiate trade deals, which have been extremely beneficial to pork producers. It would be difficult to find a sector of the economy that has benefited more than the pork industry from trade agreements.” 

Congress has granted every U.S. president since 1974 the authority to negotiate free trade agreements subject simply to up-or-down votes by Congress within a specified time. Since TPA last was renewed in August 2002, Congress has passed several agreements, including ones with Australia, Chile and the Dominican Republic and five Central American countries (DR-CAFTA). Trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Peru are pending congressional action.

Separately, the WTO Doha Development Round talks have been sputtering along since last July when negotiators reached an impasse. Informal talks last weekend in Switzerland between trade ministers from 30 of the WTO’s 150 member-countries sparked some life into the negotiations, which U.S. pork producers are hoping will open access to the lucrative European Union and Japanese markets. Another move that should help the talks was the Bush Administration’s Farm Bill proposal, which was presented today and includes cuts in trade-distorting domestic support.

“Trade is of critical importance to pork producers,” Philippi says, “and we expect an ambitious outcome for the U.S. pork industry in any Doha agreement. But that cannot happen without a TPA extension.”

New and expanded market access through trade agreements has been the most important catalyst to increase U.S. pork exports. Since the U.S./Canada Free-Trade Agreement was implemented in 1989, U.S. pork exports have grown to more than $2.6 billion from $394 million. Pork exports hit a new record in 2006, a 15th consecutive record year.

Source: National Pork Producers Council