Politics

Agriculture Leaders: The U.S. Can’t Walk Away From TPP

REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter

Power players in the agriculture community said the United States’ involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership is critical for country to remain the world’s top agriculture exporter in a Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade hearing Tuesday.

Chairman Dave Reichert said TPP, the landmark trade deal  negotiated between 12 Pacific Rim countries – signed by President Barack Obama earlier this month, but not yet approved by Congress – would eliminate tariffs and barriers in fastest growing region in the world.

“Economically and geopolitically, the United States cannot afford to walk away from the fastest growing region of the world,” John Weber, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said in his testimony. “Doing so not only would result in the United States forgoing expanded access to nearly half a billion consumers, but many, if not all, U.S. economic sectors would lose existing market shares in the region as other trade deals – without the United States – are concluded.”

National Milk Producers Federation Chairman Randy Mooney agreed, saying he has concerns about the implementation, but feels it is a step in the right direction.

“Although we were disappointed with certain aspects of the market access outcome in TPP, overall we expect that the agreement, if properly implemented and enforced, has the potential to move the needle forward for U.S. dairy exports,” he said.

The United States Trade Representative estimates the landmark trade deal would cut 18,000 taxes on American-made exports.

“It would eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs and quotas for agricultural exports to the fastest growing region in the world,” Reichert said in his opening remarks. “I am particularly pleased that TPP would establish enforceable, ‘WTO-plus’ obligations to ensure that SPS measures are not used as hidden protectionism, while not diminishing in any way the ability of the United States to guarantee the safety of imported food.”

Kevin Paap, the president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau and chair of the American Farm Bureau Federation Trade Advisory Committee, said the Farm Bureau estimates the deal would lead to an increase of net exports to TPP countries by $5.3 billion annually – raising farming income by $4.4 billion annually.

“We have seen time and again that U.S. agriculture loses market share in important export markets when our competitors have trade agreements in place and we do not,” he said.

TPP has created a wide divide on both ends of the political spectrum, with proponents saying it will boost the economy and critics arguing it won’t provide the benefits the White House promises.

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions has been one the most vocal members of Congress to come out against the deal, arguing Congress can’t amend the deal once it’s passed.

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