For the Week Ending November 6, 2020

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At press time, the winner of the presidential election had not been declared. Democrats lost seats in the House, but have kept their majority, while the Senate’s outcome remained unclear. According to election results, Republicans will control 48 seats and lead in two other states– North Carolina and Alaska. Democrats have won 48 seats. However, at least one and possibly both of Georgia’s Senate seats are headed for a Jan 5. run-off, required if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote. Meantime, the race is already on to replace House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who lost this week to Republican Michelle Fischbach. House Democrats David Scott (Ga.) and Jim Costa (Calif.) both announced Thursday they are vying to be chairman of the committee.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) believes Congress should approve a COVID relief package before the end of the year, he told reporters Wednesday, in a shift from previous comments that a measure wasn’t likely until early next year. For weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating a possible compromise between the White House’s $1.9 trillion and the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion proposals, but they remain at an impasse. U.S. hog farmers are facing billions in collective pandemic-related losses and NPPC continues to press for a COVID relief package that includes assistance for U.S. pork producers. “The impact is being felt by farms, big and small, across the country,” North Carolina Pork Council Interim CEO Gene Nemechek said in a recent National Hog Farmer column. “Many farms are losing money, and others are being forced to close altogether. That’s why it is critical that Congress quickly move forward with a COVID-19 relief package that includes specific relief for our nation’s livestock farmers,” he added. The Senate begins its post-election, lame-duck session on Monday, and its two largest legislative priorities will likely be the COVID package and funding the government past Dec. 11, when the current continuing resolution expires.  

In the past week, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced it was suspending $817 million in trade preferences for Thailand under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program because the country hadn’t made sufficient progress providing the United States with “equitable and reasonable market access” for pork products. The decision was in response to a 2018 NPPC petition asking the USTR to review Thailand’s eligibility for the GSP program, one that offers duty-free treatment to certain goods entering the United States. “For years, Thailand has taken full advantage of special U.S. trade benefits, while imposing a completely unjustified de facto ban on U.S. pork. This is hardly a reciprocal trading relationship,” said NPPC President Howard “AV” Roth. “In any given year, we export pork to more than 100 counties, but Thailand is not one of them due to their de facto ban on U.S. pork. It’s not right. We had to do something,” NPPC Assistant Vice President & Counsel, Global Government Affairs Nick Giordano told “Adams on Agriculture” on Tuesday. Read NPPC’s full press release here.  

Significant progress has been made on U.S.-U.K. trade negotiations and the UK believes it is “in a good position to move forward after the U.S. election,” UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said Monday. Truss did not outline a specific timeline, but the two countries just completed their fifth round of talks aimed at securing a trade deal. “This was the most intensive round of negotiations held so far, with 38 sessions covering 19 different chapter areas. Almost all chapter areas are now in the advanced stages of talks. A significant proportion of legal text has been agreed across multiple chapters,” she explained, noting that this latest round included a discussion on market access for goods and sanitary and phytosanitary issues. NPPC is supportive of U.S.-U.K. negotiations, provided the agreement eliminates tariff and non-tariff trade barriers on pork, the U.K. acknowledges meat industry standards as equivalent and they agree to import product from all federally inspected facilities.  

The U.K. and Kenya reached a trade deal on Tuesday, ensuring companies operating in Kenya, including British businesses, can continue to benefit from duty-free access into the UK, the UK Department of International Trade announced. “As the largest economy in East Africa and among the top 10 across the continent, Kenya is an important trading partner for the UK,” it explained. An agreement is expected to be signed by the end of the year. Meantime, the U.S. and Kenya are wrapping up their second round of talks. In late April, NPPC submitted comments to the U.S. Trade Representative on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, noting that an agreement has the potential for a significant increase in the demand for U.S. pork products, but import duties and all non-tariff barriers on U.S. pork need to be fully eliminated. “NPPC will give enthusiastic support to an FTA with Kenya that eliminates all tariffs on U.S. pork and allows for the import of pork using science-based and internationally recognized regulatory standards.” 

NPPC Assistant Vice President and General Counsel Michael Formica will be speaking to the American Agricultural Law Association’s annual symposium on Thursday, Nov. 12 about COVID’s impact on U.S. pork producers.