US lobbyist calls for changes to UK food trade standards post-Brexit

A high-ranking US pork lobby chairman has urged the UK to change its food production regulatory standards in the aftermath of Brexit if it wishes to secure a trade deal with the US.

Craig Thorn, chairman of the the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), was speaking to the US President Donald Trump’s administration’s Trade Policy Staff Committee as part of a public hearing on ‘Negotiating Objectives for a US-UK Trade Agreement’, outlining his industry’s priorities in any such deal.

‘Historic opportunity’

Addressing the committee, Thorn said: “NPPC shares the administration’s view that trade negotiations with the United Kingdom offer a historic opportunity to achieve free and fair trade between the United States and one of its closest allies.”

Describing the UK as a “moderating force” in the EU’s debate on policies, he added: “We are hopeful that the same pro-market approach will prevail in the US-UK negotiations.

“If the terms of Brexit allow the UK to negotiate trade agreements consistent with its pro-market principles, we see the potential for an important and mutually beneficial agreement.

However, if the UK agrees to remain part of the EU customs union or to maintain regulatory harmonisation with Europe, it will be difficult or impossible to achieve the kind of agreement that would benefit US agriculture and the pork industry.

“In order to benefit our industry, the agreement must deal with the following barriers to trade,” he said.

The chairman listed out five key barriers that currently prevent further business between the two nations.

Thorn said that the UK must be willing to eliminate the high tariffs that it currently imposes as a member of the EU.

The EU tariff rate quota for pork is only 70,000 metric tonnes, a quantity that represents less than 1% of EU consumption.

“The EU also maintains high end quota duties and a licensing system that makes it difficult for exporters to adjust to market conditions. Out-of-quota tariffs are prohibited,” he noted.

‘Science-based approach’

The chairman said the UK must also adopt a “science-based approach to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulation and eliminate WTO [World Trade Organisation] inconsistent EU SPS barriers.

“The EU bans the import of pork produced with ractopamine, a feed additive that is widely used by US pork producers.

“The EU requires the US to conduct trichinae risk mitigation such as testing or freezing,” he noted, adding that the risk of trichinae in the US pig herd is “negligible”.

Thorn also highlighted that the use of pathogen reduction treatments for pork is prohibited in the EU, and the union does not recognise the US meat inspection system as offering a level of safety equivalent to its own.

“There is no scientific justification for imposing additional inspection requirements,” he claimed.

“The EU is in the final stages of developing legislation that could prohibit imports of animal products, including pork, from any producer that does not impose the same restrictions on the use of antibiotics as those the EU is putting in place.

“This so-called reciprocity provision provides no opportunity for exporters to demonstrate that use restrictions in effect in their countries provide an equivalent level of protection.

The EU must reject all of these non-science-based regulations. Any bilateral agreement that doesn’t address these problems risks legitimising WTO inconsistent measures and facilitating their spread to other US export markets.

Thorn concluded by calling for the administration to negotiate an SPS chapter as part of the US-UK agreement that includes similar enforceable WTO disciplines that are part of the new United States-Mexico-Canada agreement.