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NPPC applauds Central American trade deal

by 5m Editor
18 December 2003, at 12:00am

US - National Pork Producers Council President Jon Caspers today applauded President Bush and his trade negotiators for finalizing the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua that will eliminate all tariffs on pork and open new markets for U.S. pork producers.

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"The Central America nations wanted to exclude pork from the CAFTA but Ambassador Zoellick and Ambassador Johnson, supported completely by President Bush and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, did not let us down," said Caspers, a pork producer from Swaledale, Iowa. Caspers added, "our future is heavily dependent on expanding access for U.S. pork in foreign markets. Since 1995, when the Uruguay Round Agreement went into effect, U.S. pork exports to the world have increased 147 percent. While we remain focused on the World Trade Organization (WTO) agriculture negotiations as providing the greatest future potential payoff to our producers, we are very excited about the CAFTA agreement because it will provide significant new opportunity to our producers."

Under the terms of the deal there will be both immediate and phased-in concessions on pork and pork products. A significant tariff rate quota (TRQ) will be established through which the U.S. can immediately ship pork tariff free within the quota. The size of the quota will increase each year and the out-of-quota tariff will decrease over time. The quota and the tariffs will be eliminated after the 15 year phase-in period.

With respect to non-tariff issues, Caspers notes that some further work needs to be done to ensure that each of these countries recognize the U.S. meat inspection system and implement transparent import procedures. "The elimination of tariffs is very important but in order to have meaningful, commercial access we need to be sure that all impediments to moving pork -- including sanitary, inspection, and licensing issues - are resolved. We appreciate the substantial progress that has been made to date on these non-tariff issues. It is essential that these issues are resolved in a timely manner so that U.S. pork producers can be strong supporters of the CAFTA in the U.S. Congress."

Caspers was disappointed that Costa Rica was not willing to make the commitments necessary to complete a FTA with the United States. "While pork producers would like to see Costa Rica included in the CAFTA, we understand that, among other things, Costa Rica was unwilling to eliminate tariffs on pork. We applaud our trade negotiators and the Administration for their unwillingness to permit Costa Rica to get a free ride on pork and on other products and issues of importance to the United States. I urge the Administration and the Congress to examine the preferential benefits being extended to Costa Rica through the Caribbean Basin Initiative and the Generalized System of Preferences programs to determine whether such benefits should continue. It does not seem right that so many Costa Rican businesses can ship products to the U.S. without duty while U.S. farmers and ranchers and other sectors of the U.S. economy are precluded from reciprocal treatment in Costa Rica."

Caspers concluded by again thanking U.S. government officials for their hard work in completing these agreements. "We appreciate the hard work of Ambassdor Zoellick and Ambassador Johnson and the staff of USTR, as well as the hard work of Secretary Veneman and her staff at USDA. We also appreciate the support of many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who went to bat for pork producers. " Capsers also thanked acknowledged the National Pork Board "for contributing research and analysis that supported the effort."

Source: National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) - 17th December 2003

5m Editor