DES MOINES, Iowa — Maintaining and enhancing current export markets and working to open a few more are among the top items on the “to-do” list for Maria Zieba, vice president of international affairs for the National Pork Producers Council.
“There are plenty of opportunities as long as things are negotiated correctly,” Zieba said.
When she discussed her role at NPPC at a legislative update press conference during World Pork Expo in June, Zieba’s title was assistant vice president of international affairs.
Just a week later, Bryan Humphreys, NPPC CEO, who moderated the press conference and posed questions to Zieba and other NPPC staff, announced that Zieba was promoted to vice president of international affairs, overseeing trade advocacy efforts for the NPPC on behalf of U.S. pork producers.
“It’s never been more important to plan for our future, and we are pleased to have someone with Maria’s experience and talent to lead NPPC’s efforts to increase trade for U.S. pork products,” said Humphreys in announcing the promotion.
Zieba said the focus of the NPPC’s trade efforts focus on three areas, including expanding market access for U.S. pork, maintaining that market access once it is gained, and protecting the U.S. swine herd from any foreign animal diseases.
In 2021, the United States exported some $8.1 billion worth of pork and pork products. Pork exports represent around 30% of total U.S. pork production, according to Zieba.
“Trade is vital to the success of our industry,” she said.
One big question was answered the very day of the press conference as Katherine Tai, U.S. trade representative, announced that Doug McKalip, a senior adviser to Tom Vilsack, U.S. secretary of agriculture, and a trade expert at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, had been nominated as chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
McKalip is a 29-year employee of the USDA and has served in a number of positions within the USDA.
In May, Vilsack announced the nomination of Alexis Taylor, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, to the position of under secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs at USDA.
“We are really happy about both of those nominations and happy to see that the administration is putting such a big focus on trade and getting those positions filled. They really are key to opening new markets and making sure we have agriculture at the table during those upcoming framework discussions,” Zieba said.
Zieba said the NPPC’s efforts are focused on reduction of tariffs, as well as reducing sanitary and phytosanitary barriers on U.S. pork imports.
“Most of that is going to come through the elimination of tariffs in Southeast Asian countries. We certainly face a lot of headwinds on the tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade,” she said.
Zieba said the late May announcement by now-former Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, before he left office on June 30, that lower tariffs on pork imports would be extended through the end of the year in an effort to fight food inflation in the country, was welcome.
Lower tariffs on pork imports from the United States were announced in April 2021. That agreement was binding for a year.
In May 2022, Duterte signed an executive order reducing Most Favored Nation tariff rates and extending those lower rates through Dec. 31, 2022. New Philippines president Ferdinand Marco Jr. took over from Duterte as president on July 1.
“In the Philippines, we got a temporary reduction in our tariffs. That is something we have been working with the administration on and urging them to negotiated with the Philippines to make those temporary cuts permanent,” Zieba said.
The original executive order signed by Duterte in 2021 reduced the tariff rates on pork imports from Most Favored Nations from 30% to 10% for three months for in-quota pork — imports under the Minimum Access Volume — and increased it to 15% for the remainder of 2021.
Pork imports above the MAV — or out-of-quota imports — had a 20% tariff in the first three months, which was raised to 25% in the remaining months. The original tariff on out-of-quota pork imports was 40%.
“They are facing food price inflation and if they are able to import high-quality, affordable pork from the United States, it certainly is going to affect some of the issues they have been fighting,” Zieba said.
The Philippines announced its first African swine fever outbreak in September 2019.
The May executive order signed by Duterte makes the 15% and 25% tariffs effective through the end of this year.
“What we have been advocating for is for the U.S. to enter the Trans Pacific Partnership. This has been something that, on the packing capacity side, our producers put a lot of investment into those plants because they thought they would be able to compete in the market and that we would be part of the TPP,” Zieba said.
On his first day in office, former President Donald Trump signed an executive order that withdrew the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership.
The CPTPP, or Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership, is the free trade agreement signed by 11 Asia and Pacific countries, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The CPTPP went into effect in December 2018. China, Ecuador, Taiwan and the United Kingdom have applied to join the trade partnership.