NPPC urges Australia not to restrict pork imports

NPPC Press release | 12/19/2007

NPPC Urges Australia Not To Restrict Pork Imports

In advance of a report that may recommend protecting Australia’s pork industry, the National Pork Producers Council is urging the Australian government not to place restrictions on imports of U.S. pork.

Citing the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which became effective Jan. 1, 2005, NPPC said the U.S. pork industry should be excluded from any protectionist action taken by Australia.

Under pressure from Australian pork groups and after a two-month investigation, the Australian government’s Productivity Commission is set to issue a report on the condition of the country’s pork industry, which may include a recommendation that measures against pork imports be taken to protect it.

The World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Safeguards allows WTO member countries to impose for up to 200 days provisional safeguard measures if “a surge of imports causes or threatens to cause serious material injury to a domestic industry.”

Australian pork producers are seeking government protection from pork imports in the form of tariffs of up to 62 percent despite the fact that their representative organization, Australia Pork Limited, admitted to the Productivity Commission that “a substantial part of the [Australian pork] industry is not globally competitive.”

“The U.S. pork industry urges the Australian government not to take unjustified and unwarranted actions against U.S. pork imports,” said NPPC President Jill Appell, a pork producer from Altona, Ill. “Government protection will reward inefficient Australian pork producers and punish Australian consumers, who undoubtedly will be paying more for their hams, bacon and pepperoni.

“All competitive food and agriculture exporters in Australia and the United States should be very concerned about the precedent this case could establish for their exports,” added Appell. “This will be an important litmus test of the new Australian government’s free trade credentials.”

NPPC pointed out that the economic woes being suffered by the Australian pork industry are being experienced by pork producers around the world. The dynamics of the hog cycle and high feed costs due to drought and renewable fuels policy have put a cost squeeze on pork producers, said the organization.

“U.S. pork imports are not the cause of Australia’s problems,” Appell said. “Just like producers in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Mexico and places all over the world, Australian pork producers are having a hard time. The situation in Australia is not special or unique.”

The U.S. pork industry only gained access to the Australian market Jan. 1, 2005, when the U.S.-Australia FTA became effective. Australia now is one of the top destinations for U.S. pork, with exports topping $65 million in the first nine months of 2007. Estimates were that the FTA would generate $50 million in new U.S. pork sales each year.

Australia’s Productivity Commission in mid-October began its investigation and was asked to issue an accelerated report of its findings by Dec. 14. A final report is due by the end of March 2008.

source: Farms.com