The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) praised the U.S. and Panamanian governments April 19 for completing work on a joint trade promotion agreement, and urged the Obama administration to use expedience in sending Congress implementing legislation for the trade pact.

The trade agreement with Panama will provide new market opportunities for a wide range of American agricultural products, as well as level the playing field for U.S. pork producers and other food producers, NPPC said.

“Implementing the pending trade agreement with Panama will level the playing field so that U.S. producers and exporters of food and farm products receive reciprocal market access,” said NPPC President Doug Wolf, a pork producer from Lancaster, WI. “It also will open to U.S. pork producers, other agricultural sectors and U.S. business a market of almost 3.4 million consumers.”

Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes said the trade agreement will add 20 cents to the price producers receive for each hog marketed, with pork exports to Panama expected to increase by about $16 million a year. It will also create more than 200 jobs in the U.S. pork industry.

Currently, U.S. pork exports to Panama are restricted by a small quota and out-of-quota duties as high as 80%. Under the Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, U.S. pork variety meats would become duty free and U.S. pork muscle meat would gain market access through larger tariff rate quotas that would grow 6% annually. The out-of-quota tariffs phase out in 15 years and all other tariffs on U.S. pork phase out over 12 years.
The trade agreement resolves significant sanitary and technical issues. For example, Panama will recognize the U.S. meat inspection system as equal to their meat inspection system.

“With conclusion of this deal, the three trading agreements – Columbia, Panama and South Korea – are ready for Congress to consider. We ask the administration to send implementing legislation for all three, and we urge Congress to approve them before its August recess,” Wolf said.