Nick Giordano, vice president and counsel for international affairs, National Pork Producers Council, says the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, or TPP, currently being negotiated, could be a huge boost for U.S. pork exports, especially if Japan participates.

Giordano’s comments were made in an interview this week with Mike Adams, host of Agri-Talk Radio.

The TPP is a trade agreement between the United States, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Brunei and New Zealand. The focus is on reduction of trade barriers including tariffs as well as non-tarriff issues.  

“This is the biggest deal,” says Giordano. “This would eclipse the free-trade agreement with Korea and it would eclipse the North American Free-Trade Agreement; in a word, it is unbelievable.” Recently, Japan has indicated they want to participate in TPP but their entry must be approved by current TPP members.

 “Even without Japan, the TPP is very important to the U.S. pork industry,” said Giordano. “With Japan in the TPP, it is the single most important trade deal by far for the U.S. pork industry, so this is very, very interesting.”

Japan is already the number one export value market for the U.S. pork industry importing 38,689 metric tons valued at $166 million in September alone, increases of 23 percent in volume and 32 percent in value over last year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Currently, Japan imports about 50 percent of its pork needs.

Through September, the United States has exported more than 1.6 million metric tons of pork valued at nearly $4.4 billion, increases of 16 percent and 25 percent, respectively, over the first nine months of 2010.

According to Dermot Hayes, Iowa State University agricultural economist, within 10 years U.S. pork exports to Japan will more than double and live hog prices would increase by $26 per head with Japan’s entry into the TPP.

The acceptance of Japan into the TPP is not a sure thing. “We’ll hear from some sectors of the U.S. economy that might be less than enthusiastic about a free-trade agreement with Japan,” said Giordano. “(Japan’s) Prime Minister is taking a big risk because he does not have full support of the democratic party of Japan. It is extremely controversial and we’ll have politicking going on in the United States, Japan, as well as by the other TPP members.”

“My hope is that Japan comes in to the TPP, but no one knows the answer,” said Giordano.