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World Meat Congress Concludes in Uruguay

Published: Nov 11, 2016

USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng, Economist Erin Borror and other staff members were in Punta del Este, Uruguay, this week to participate in World Meat Congress 2016 (WMC), a biennial gathering of international meat experts and industry leaders.

USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng, left, addresses the audience at World Meat Congress 2016 in Uruguay

The International Meat Secretariat (IMS) and the National Meat Institute of Uruguay (INAC) hosted the event, which attracted nearly 800 participants from 36 countries. Session topics at the two-day event included global production and consumption trends, trade policy, animal care and health, sustainability, consumer confidence and trust and human health and nutrition.

Seng, a member of the IMS Executive Council, moderated a panel discussion examining the effects of policies and global trends over production, consumption and trade of meat. Speakers during the session were Will Martin, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute; Luis Carazo, an international trade specialist representing the European Commission; and Geoffrey Wiggin, retired deputy administrator of the Office of Agreements and Scientific Affairs of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Martin told the audience that the U.S. and Brazil have nearly double the world average for arable land per capita and this “will continue to underpin the need for trade in agricultural products.”

Carazo predicted that meat will remain one of the most sensitive products in trade dealings. “Societal demands – food safety, environmental concerns, animal welfare, etc. – have gained relevance as opposed to import duties, and there is therefore a growing sophistication of technical modalities,” he said.

Wiggin lamented the recent growth in anti-trade sentiment, noting, “The only bad trade deal is one that you’re not part of.”

Borror, who chairs the Economics Committee for IMS, moderated a session on global trends, which had on its roster of speakers Richard Brown, director of Gira, a food research and consultancy firm; Justin Sherrard, a global strategist with Rabobank; Claus Deblitz, deputy director of the Thünen Institute of Farm Economics; and Sergio de Zen, a professor and researcher with the Center for Advanced Studies in Applied Economics in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

USMEF Economist Erin Borror presents “U.S. Perspective on Free Trade Agreements”

Among the points made during the global trends session:

  • Demand for red meat continues to grow, as the fundamental demand factors (income and population growth) continue to outweigh the numerous “halting” factors, including negative perceptions about meat consumption.
  • China remains a key driver for growth in red meat demand, as well as Southeast Asia.
  • Supply chain integration can help the industry prepare for uncertainty and meet the increasingly complex demands from consumers.
  • In addition to income growth, demand for red meat will also be impacted by consumers’ continued desire for convenient foods.
  • Teaching consumers how to prepare red meat and developing more convenient items while still focusing on the natural and wholesome benefits of meat will be paramount, especially in more developed markets.

Borror also presented “U.S. Perspective on Free Trade Agreements” during a committee meeting at the WMC. She focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the impact of the recent Brexit referendum and developments at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

(left to right): Jessica Julca, USMEF representative in South America, Erin Borror, USMEF economist; and Cheyenne McEndaffer, USMEF technical services manager at World Meat Congress 2016

“Most importantly, the TPP eliminates and lowers duties in our largest value market, Japan, and eliminates duties in Vietnam, a fast-growing market for U.S. beef. As a high-standards agreement, the TPP also has a sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) chapter which builds on the WTO. Additional value could come from adding countries to the TPP, and it has been expected that the U.S. will use the TPP model in future negotiations.” Borror said during her presentation. “When looking at TTIP, we were concerned by the challenges faced by the trade agreement between the EU and Canada, and it is important to note that an agreement between the EU and U.S. will have to go much farther. Brexit causes even more uncertainty, but it is likely going to take time before the United Kingdom can negotiate bilateral trade deals.”