By RACHEL LANE
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In an effort to compile a list of issues to be addressed and benefits and concerns, the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) sponsored the Emerging Issues in Global Animal Product Trade Conference 2012 last month.
The free conference on Sept. 27-28 had approximately 100 attendees from embassies, universities and animal product organizations. Scientists, economists and those involved in animal product trade spoke during the two-day conference.
The last such conference was four years ago. Andrew Muhammad, with the ERS, and others decided with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) under discussion, and the possibility of many more Asian markets opening to the United States, it was time to have another.
“We’re not here to talk about our position, we’re here to share information so more people can make an informed decision,” said Muhammad, a co-director of the event.
“Producer groups are giving presentations, and the United States Department of Agriculture. There are other agencies and departments that deal with international trade here, too.
“They want greater information in how animal trade is affecting global trade. We would like these to become (biennial).”
By the number of people who registered to attend the conference, he said it is obvious the industry wants this information.
“They’d like to hear different opinions, what are some concerns, issues, what are some good points and where can the U.S. improve,” Muhammad said. “We’re hoping that the conference can be a form to provide information as we move forward.”
“We export (animal products) to over 100 counties and import from over 40 counties,” said Keithly Jones, with the ERS and another co-director of the conference.
Mexico and Canada are some of the largest trading partners with the United States. While Asian countries have the potential to be a big market for the U.S., it will not be the biggest, Jones said.
The conferences have focused on issues such as regulations in other countries, as well as sanitation issues. Jones said some countries have regulations that beef must come from cattle under 20 months old, for example, while other countries, such as Japan, have strict sanitation regulations.
Discovering a country’s position on eating cloned meat, sanitation conditions, genetically modified food and the packaging process were considered during the conference. Muhammad said the key is to harmonize the regulations.
“Countries are supposed to justify regulations through science, not just a hidden trade restriction to benefit their own farmers and ranchers,” he said. “Different countries are allowed, to some degree, to have different policies. Countries have a right to decide they don’t want to (buy) a meat grown using a certain process.”
He said even though the TPP has been under negotiations for years, it may take more years before it is approved. Even after the approval, it will take time for the new regulations to take effect.
The panels considered meat, poultry and eggs, dairy and live animals, while also occasionally discussing fur and hide trade. Discussions on packaging products and labeling were included.
Experts on current FTAs discussed how the agreements have changed U.S. and other markets and how the agreements are still changing to better suit both sides of each agreement (see related article on page 11).
The TPP will have the 15th round of negotiations in December in New Zealand. To view presentations from the September conference, visit www.farm foundation.org/webcontent/Emerging- Issues-in-Global-Animal-Product-Trade- 1754.aspx