The World Trade Organization’s current trade negotiations, known as the Doha Round, are of vital importance to the U.S. pork industry and increasing global market access is the industry’s top priority during the round, said a National Pork Producers Council official in testimony before the House Agriculture Committee.

“No trade agreement under negotiation is more important to U.S. pork producers than the Doha Round negotiations,” Jon Caspers, past NPPC president told the panel. Caspers, who also serves as an adviser to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Rob Portman, added: “NPPC fully supports the administration’s recent WTO proposal, which puts the focus of the negotiations where it belongs – on the refusal of the E.U. and other high-tariff countries to offer major improvements in market access.”

As an example of the need to open markets, Caspers cited Japan, the United States' largest pork export market, which imposes high duties on pork imports if they fall below a pre-established “gate price.” He said opening the Japanese market is paramount to America’s pork producers.

“The highest single-market access priority of the U.S. pork industry in this trade round is obtaining a major reduction in the gate price level that Japan applies to pork imports, combined with a major reduction in the import duties that Japan applies on pork imports that are priced below the gate price,” said Caspers. “It's also important that the special safeguard that Japan applies to pork imports be eliminated in this trade round.”

U.S. pork exports totaled more than 1 million metric tons, valued at $2.2 billion in 2004. Pork exports have increased by more than 551 percent in volume and 472 percent in value since the U.S./Canada Free Trade Agreement was implimented in 1989. Additional trade agreements, such as NAFTA, the GATT Uruguay Round and numerous bilateral free-trade agreements and WTO accession agreements, have contributed to increased U.S. pork exports.

The Center for Agriculture and Rural Development at Iowa State University has calculated that in 2004, U.S. pork prices were $33.60 per hog higher than they would have been in the absence of exports. According to Glenn Grimes, ag economist at the University of Missouri, through the first seven months of 2005, cash hog prices were about 15 percent higher than they would have been if exports had not increased from 2004 levels.

To read Caspers’ testimony, visit NPPC’s Web site at http://www.nppc.org.

National Pork Producers Council.