Washington Insider-- Friday

Taiwan Clears US Pork Produced With Ractopamine

Here's a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN's well-placed observer.

Taiwan Clears US Pork Produced With Ractopamine

Taiwan's parliament approved the import of pork from hogs produced using the feed additive ractopamine, despite efforts to halt the action by the main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT).

KMT lawmakers denounced the action, declaring that U.S. pork produced with the feed additive was "poison."

The Taiwanese government has taken the position that no one will be forced to eat the pork and the action will bring Taiwan in line with international norms. There are a mix of countries that allow and those that ban imports of pork from hogs raised on ractopamine.

Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters the government would protect the health of citizens. The action is also seen as an effort by Taiwan to secure a free trade deal with the U.S. which has complained about Taiwan's ban on pork produced with ractopamine.

Ham, Some Pork Product Supplies Being Stretched By COVID

Supplies of holiday hams and some pork products are being stretched as COVID-19 precautions challenge meatpackers' workforces, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Some meat suppliers are placing limits on how much pork supermarkets can order, grocers said, leading to less variety and fewer pork promotions ahead of Christmas.

The pandemic has prompted some major processors, including Smithfield Foods Inc. and JBS USA Holdings, to provide paid leave for workers considered higher risk due to their older age or pre-existing conditions, the companies have said. Some meat companies have made additional hires to offset higher-risk workers' absences.

To space workers farther apart, some meat plants have slowed processing speeds. Bacon, dinner sausages and lunch meat have also been in tight supply, grocery companies said.

Mon. Dec. 28 Washington Insider Implications of Brexit

The New York Times is reporting this week that "it took 11 grueling months for negotiators from Britain and the European Union to hammer out the post-Brexit trade deal. But in many respects, the deal is already four and a half years out of date."

The world has changed radically since June 2016, when a narrow majority of people in Britain voted to leave the EU, the Times says.

The buccaneers of Brexit promised to create a "Global Britain."

They envisioned an agile, independent Britain, one free to develop profitable, next-generation industries such as artificial intelligence and cut its own trade deals with the United States, China and others. It was an alluring sales pitch.

That was before the anti-immigrant battles and the anti-globalist-fueled rise of President Trump and other populist leaders who erected barriers to trade. It also was before the coronavirus pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of far-flung supply chains fueling calls to bring strategic industries back home and throwing globalism into retreat.

In the anxious dawn of 2021, the buccaneers seem out of fashion, the Times says. The world is now dominated by three gargantuan economic blocs—the United States, China and the European Union. Britain has finalized its divorce from one of them, leaving it isolated at a time when the path forward seems more perilous than it once did.

"The whole 'Global Britain' model doesn't reflect the more protectionist, nationalistic world we're living in," said Thomas Wright, the director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution. "Becoming a global free trader in 2016 is a bit like turning into a communist in 1989. It's bad timing."

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson leads Britain into a post-Brexit future, he also risks being out of step politically.

The Brexit agreement with the EU comes at the very moment that President-elect Joseph Biden is replacing Trump's "America First" credo with a message of mending alliances and collaborating to tackle issues such as global health and climate change.

While the Brexit deal averts tariffs and quotas on goods crossing the English Channel, it is at heart about disentangling neighbors who had become deeply integrated over four decades. That estrangement, analysts say, is bound to weaken ties between the two sides in other areas, such as security and diplomacy.

"Biden wants to see alliances and multilateralism and cooperation and Brexit runs completely against that," said Mujtaba Rahman, an analyst at the Eurasia Group.

Trump cheered Britain's drive to sever itself from the European Union and promised to negotiate a trade agreement with Johnson, whom he cultivated personally. But Biden opposed Brexit and has ruled out negotiating new trade agreements until the United States improves its own competitive position. That nullifies one of the prime selling points of Brexit.

Johnson has pivoted by highlighting other ways that Britain can work with the United States such as reinforcing NATO and playing host at a UN climate summit next year.

Britain has also promoted itself as a champion of democratic values in places like Hong Kong, but in a less hospitable world, it may not find many allies for that kind of work.

"Who are the obvious partners for them?" Wright said. "Four years ago, they could have said Brazil, but Brazil is now run by a populist." There also are limits to how muscular a partner Britain can be in the confrontation with autocratic states like China and Russia.

Britain once hoped its free-agent status would allow a thriving commercial relationship with Beijing. But under pressure from Trump on the role of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in 5G networks, Britain has largely abandoned its cultivation of China, falling in line with the United States' more antagonistic position.

The pandemic has forced Brussels to reconsider policies it once shunned, the Times says.

Liberating itself from the constraints of Brussels had been one of the biggest attractions of Brexit. Instead, Britain faces a much larger competitor that seems bent, like Britain itself, on transforming its economies with digital and "green" technology -- and more open to using state aid to do so.

Another irony of Brexit is that Europe, alienated by Trump's unilateral policies, has begun echoing some of the language used by Brexiteers in 2016. President Emmanuel Macron of France and others have spoken of the need for "European sovereignty" in the face of a less reliable United States. Mr. Johnson made reclaiming British sovereignty the leitmotif of his negotiations with Brussels.

Britain's independence also allows it the chance to be experimental in its relations with other countries. Mr. Wright, for example, said the Biden administration might be interested in negotiating a different kind of economic understanding with Britain than an old-fashioned free trade agreement.

Nevertheless, "the world of June 2016 is not the world of today," Wright said. "They know that as well, deep down."

Clearly, the evolving Biden policies for trade will be complex and important and should be watched closely by producers as they evolve, Washington Insider believes.

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