(USMEF/NAFB) — Adapting to the times, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) kicked off its virtual Strategic Planning Conference Wednesday. And according to a report from Micheal Clements, despite this challenging time, U.S. meat exports are enjoying a strong year with market opportunities in the future.
USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom, speaking during the Opening General Session, says that as countries rebound from COVID-19, demand for U.S. meat products is growing.
“Despite all the uncertainty in the marketplace, consumers are still eating, this is the good news. In some countries, as they emerge from the impact of COVID-19, some demand segments are seeing consumption of both beef and pork exceed that of the pre COVID-19 levels. For this reason and many others, we have a lot of reasons to be optimistic moving forward.”
Anja Manuel, a former diplomat, author and leading advisor on emerging markets, was the keynote speaker Wednesday. She says Asia will recovery quicker from COVID-19 because they’ve been through pandemics before.
“They have the experience of SARS and MERS, so they’ve been through a pandemic before. Their health systems are nationalized. so it’s easier than here to get everybody to be on the same page. There’s a culture of mask wearing, so when people said, okay we’re going to lock down hard, those lockdowns were much more intense all over Asia than they have been here in the U.S. or in Europe. So, they nipped the virus in the bud, and now of course there’s universal mask wearing, and very extreme contact tracing in a way that would be hard to square with Western privacy protections. So, people definitely look at internal TV feeds, everybody’s required to have an app on their phone that does contact tracing and they’ve done enormously well. They’re going to come back faster economically than the rest of us in the U.S. and Europe.”
Meanwhile, the incoming Biden administration will bring a shift in trade policies, one that may see conversations regarding rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, as a move to push back against China’s unfair trade policies.
Halstrom: “What’s the likelihood in your opinion that the U.S. will rejoin the CPTPP?” Manuel: “I do think there’s interest in the Biden administration, once they get up and running to do it. But Biden has to look at his two factions. There’s a very strong labor support and environmental group support for the Biden administration, they’re not going to work rejoin the TPP, I would bet, without new protections for labor and environment. And then you have kind of the traditional globalists who are close to the Vice President, and who probably would like to do that and probably would like to do that in order to push back against China.”
She says the best way to work with China on trade is to keep the relationship on an even keel.
“We need to find a way where we’re honest about our differences, we push back on the Chinese when they’re crossing the line, and in lots of other areas we muddle through, or we actually cooperate. And I think one of those is trade and agricultural exports. It’s really a sign of elegance and status to serve high quality beef, pork, everything. This is a middle class that’s getting wealthier and aspirationally, they want things to be safe and natural and clean and U.S. meat exports have all of those attributes. So, I think the market is there for you. if the governments don’t get in each other’s way.”
Additionally, the fastest growing markets in Asia for U.S. beef and pork exports are Vietnam and the Philippines. Manuel says there’s many reasons to be optimistic about future trade with the region.
“So, the Vietnamese are very savvy and very pro-business, very pro U.S., they don’t like the Chinese very much. And they’ve been striking free trade deals all over the place and their economy is growing fast. So, I definitely think that’s going to be a good market for you going forward. The Philippines is slightly more complicated. It’s also growing at six sometimes seven percent a year. That one is a little bit more politically sensitive but yes, ultimately it’s a fast growing market it’s a market that wants to be open, and I think will be a good place for you to sell your product going forward.”
The virtual Strategic Planning Conference will conclude Friday afternoon. Learn more online by visiting USMEF.org.
(From the U.S. Meat Export Federation and the National Association of Farm Broadcasters)