There are more than 7.3 billion individuals living on this planet. Of that rapidly growing number, almost 319 million of them call the United States of America home. That’s right, more than 95 percent of the world’s population (and about 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power) reside outside our nation’s borders. While it can take time, effort and potentially significant financial resources to physically travel the globe, in today’s tech-savvy marketplace, you can purchase French wine directly from the vineyard, fine cheese from a New Zealand dairy, and beef from the Flint Hills of Kansas without ever leaving the comfort of your home. I know it’s not breaking news, but it’s a fact that bears repeating:  we live in a global economy.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative works with other federal agencies, states and industry on behalf of us – farmers and ranchers, and producers of all products, to expand opportunities to sell U.S.-made and produced products around the globe. From negotiating trade pacts to reduce tariffs on our products to seeking to totally eliminate non-tariff barriers to trade, like non-science based Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) barrier, USTR is working to break down barriers to trade.

For example, just this week, USDA announced that an agreement was reached that will immediately allow U.S. producers to export slaughter cattle to Mexico for the first time in more than a decade.  

"Our priority at USDA is not only to open or reopen markets for our producers, but to help drive U.S. economic growth through trade by supporting and creating American jobs on and off the farm," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "Mexico is an important market for U.S. cattle producers, with the potential to import $15 million of live U.S. cattle per year.”

In addition, USTR released its 2015 National Trade Estimate Report to provide updates of USTR’s efforts to reduce obstacles to trade. Ranging from removing SPS barriers to agricultural exports and eliminating technical barriers that unfairly restrict manufacturing exports, the report spotlights USTR’s efforts to improve competitiveness for Made in America exports. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman says the administration is working “working around the clock to fight unwarranted barriers to our exports around the world, and we’ve racked-up significant accomplishments in protecting the benefits that trade delivers for the American people.”

The report included several beef and cattle specific accomplishments:

  • In February 2015, Vietnam agreed to allow imports of U.S. beef and beef products from cattle under 30 months. In 2014, U.S. beef and beef product exports to Vietnam totaled $22 million, and this announcement provides opportunities to expand in this growing market.
  • In April 2014, Mexico lifted restrictions on the import of U.S. beef and beef products from cattle over 30 months of age. USDA estimates the improved access in Mexico could increase beef and beef product exports to Mexico by $50 million annually.
  • In July 2014, Pakistan lifted its ban on BSE-related ban on live cattle imports from the United States, which could result in as many as 10,000 animals being imported during the first year without the ban.
  • After discussions with USTR, Chile withdrew a proposed measure that would have distinguished beef grades by breed type, which would have limited premium grades (and prices) to only certain purebred cattle. Withdrawal of the proposal means U.S. farmers and ranchers can continue to take full advantage of this market, which was worth $65.9 million in 2014.

One key trade priority remains finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation trade agreement that could boost U.S. exports by $124 billion. Finalizing the pact, however, requires passage of Trade Promotion Authority in Congress, which is proving to be a challenge in and of itself (see Policy Perspectives:  Trade issues struggle in Congress).

"More than one million people go to work every day thanks to exports of American-grown products,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Expanded U.S. agricultural exports mean more new jobs, but our farmers and ranchers will miss out on new markets for American products if Congress doesn't act on Trade Promotion Authority early this year and if we don't continue to build support for a Trans-Pacific Partnership with Asian nations."

In fiscal year 2014, the United States exported a record $152.5 billion in food and agricultural products to consumers around the globe. Efforts like these to break down barriers to trade mean more consumers in more countries have more access to the food and agricultural products grown on farms and ranches around the country.