The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) supports the efforts of the Bush Administration to start talks on investment and financial services with the so-called Pacific 4 (P4) nations that could lead to U.S. membership in a regional free trade agreement (FTA).

The FTA between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, officially known as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership, went into effect in May 2006. It includes an accession clause that permits other countries to join. The United States will participate in a meeting of P4 countries in March that will discuss new FTA investment and financial services.

NPPC hopes that meeting will lead to talks on agriculture and the United States joining the FTA.

“This is an important step toward expanding pork exports in the Asia-Pacific region,” says NPPC President Jill Appell, a pork producer from Altona, IL. “Pork producers have benefited tremendously from the increased exports that result from trade agreements.”

Market access via trade agreements has been a key catalyst for increasing U.S. pork exports. Since the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement was implemented in 1989, U.S. pork exports have grown in value from $394 million to more than $2.6 billion. Pork exports were expected to set a new record in 2007, their 16th-consecutive year of growth.