The news comes as part of the first hearing in the US Congress dedicated to analysing the next steps in strengthening its special relationship with the UK via a bilateral trade deal.
Speaking at a subcommittee hearing, Ted Poe, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, said: “[Brexit has given the US an] opportunity to negotiate a deal that not only should represent a gold standard when it comes to trade deals, but also deepen our alliance even further.”
Strong support in favour of a UK-US trade deal has been voiced by the National Pork Producers Council, but what does the rest of the meat industry, on both sides of the Atlantic, think of the deal?
“Japan is the largest destination for US red meat exports, with which the United States does not currently have an FTA, but USMEF welcomes talks with any trading partner that are aimed at eliminating barriers and improving market access,” said Joe Schuele, vice-president of communications for the US Meat Export Federation.
The International Meat Trade Association (IMTA) expressed support for the deal, but questioned whether it would face the same challenges as other comprehensive trade deals.
“A key question is whether a UK-US trade deal is likely to come up against the same sticking points as have arisen during the TTIP discussions between the EU and US,” said Katie Doherty, policy and operations manager, IMTA.
“The US takes the ‘innovation principle’ approach to science-based decision-making whereas the EU follows the ‘precautionary principle’. It is yet to be seen where the UK will lie between these two concepts and therefore how it will treat the same issues that could not be bridged in TTIP, such as hormone use in beef production or antimicrobial treatments for poultry meat.
“A US-UK free trade deal could see benefits to importers of beef, pork and poultry to the UK and exporters of beef and lamb to the US.
“The UK is currently seeking veterinary approval for exporting beef and lamb to the US market and that will be a key stepping-stone before any trade talks begin,” she added.
Mick Sloyan, strategy director of UK levy board the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Pork, said agreeing rules on tariffs and production standards would be key to any deal.
“In terms of tariffs, it’s by no means clear that, even if we do a free trade deal, there won’t be some tariffs enforced. Look at CETA [the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada], whilst it seeks to get free trade across, some aspects of food are sensitive for both countries and tariff quotas are in place.”
Tariff quotas prevent countries from dumping uncontrolled volumes of product. Sloyan said rushing into tariff-free access with the US without a reasonable transition period could be “incredibly disruptive” to the UK meat industry.
He also added US food production standards – such as treatment of pork with the growth-promoting drug ractopamine and washing chicken with chlorine – would raise issues that needed to be addressed.