LaHood requests pork tariff trade negotiations with Vietnam

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) helped lead a bipartisan contingent of more than 70 lawmakers in requesting that the United States Trade Representative (USTR) negotiate with Vietnam to eliminate tariffs on U.S. pork.

“While you discuss the full range of trade issues with Vietnam, including those subject to Section 301 investigations, please consider pressing for further market access for U.S. pork to support these domestic producers,” wrote Rep. LaHood and his colleagues in a May 5 letter sent to USTR Katherine Tai. 

The past few years have been extraordinarily difficult for U.S. pork producers due to trade retaliation from top U.S. export destinations — Mexico and China, as well as supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the lawmakers wrote. 

“COVID-related harvest-facility shutdowns and slowdowns created an unsustainable surplus, leading hog values to plummet to levels not seen since 2002. Many producers were left with no option but to euthanize livestock to avoid overcrowding,” wrote Rep. LaHood and his colleagues, noting that due to Section 232 tariff retaliation, U.S. pork now faces a 33 percent tariff in China, the world’s largest pork consumer, while America’s competitors pay just 8 percent into that market.

The result is that many U.S. pork producers are struggling to stay afloat and Vietnam presents a tremendous opportunity for U.S. pork exporters. 

“Last year, Vietnam imported only 25,000 metric tons (MT) of U.S. pork, while Mexico, the second largest importer of U.S. pork by volume, imported 735,000 MT,” according to their letter. “While Mexico may be geographically closer, Vietnam’s roughly 96 million citizens consume 57 lbs. of pork per year compared to Mexico’s 31 lbs. Allowing U.S. pork producers to fill this great demand provides the opportunity to increase the value of exports to Vietnam from the current $54 million to a level closer to Mexico’s $1.2 billion.”

And while Vietnam did take an initial step forward last year in addressing the U.S. pork tariff disadvantage when it temporarily reduced its Most Favored Nation (MFN) tariff rates from 15 percent to 10 percent for frozen pork products, the temporary duty reduction expired at the end of 2020.

“We saw U.S. pork exports double in the second half of 2020 compared to the first half of the year,” Rep. LaHood and the members wrote. “The surge in U.S. exports during the tariff reprieve coupled with Vietnam’s growing population and cultural preference for high-quality pork demonstrate that the United States is barely scratching the surface of its export potential to Vietnam.” 

The letter is supported by the National Pork Producers. 

“Pork producers are vital to Illinois’ economy and they need free and fair trade to remain competitive in the global economy,” said Rep. LaHood in a statement. “I am pleased to join my colleagues to urge the Biden administration to engage with Vietnam to strengthen our trade relationship.”