OPINION  The U.S. pork industry ships more product to the 20 countries covered by free-trade agreements than we do the rest of the world combined. Therefore expanding export opportunities through trade agreements remains a priority for U.S. pork producers.

The National Pork Producers Council was pleased this past week when the United States and Japan signed a trade agreement, returning U.S. pork to a level playing field in one of its most important export markets. With a trade deal in place with Japan, the council is focusing on trade agreements with numerous other countries.

One of the council’s most pressing priorities has been congressional ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, securing long-term zero-duty access to two of its largest export markets. This past year more than 40 percent of U.S. pork exported went to Canada and Mexico. The trade agreement will strengthen the strong economic ties with our North American neighbors and ensure tariff-free trade with the two countries.

Unfortunately the trade situation with China remains frustrating. The trade dispute with China has cost U.S. pork producers $8 per animal, or $1 billion on an annualized basis. Recent Chinese-media reports have suggested tariff relief for U.S. pork. But we need to remove market-access uncertainty and gain permanent competitive access to China.

U.S. pork producers are seeking the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers in a variety of other export markets promising significant growth opportunities. For instance a trade deal with India, the second-most populous nation in the world, would provide a tremendous opportunity for U.S. producers to provide safe, wholesome and nutritious pork products to consumers in that country.

The council is also working to expand other export markets as well including Jamaica, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, South Africa and Brazil. Pork is one of our country’s most competitive export products and we will continue to fight for the chance to meet the increasing global demand for the world’s most popular protein.

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Maria Zieba is the director of international affairs for the National Pork Producers Council, the global voice for the U.S. pork industry, protecting the livelihoods of America’s 60,000 pork producers. Visit www.nppc.org for more information.