One of the first things President Trump did upon taking office was walk away from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. Now that approach may be reconsidered. The TPP trade deal would have given the U.S. farmers lower tariffs and great market access to all the nations in Asia and the South Pacific, but strong opposition by labor unions forced the administration to abandon the deal. Now, with the tariffs against China causing major problems for U.S. agriculture, Sec of Ag Sonny Perdue told reporters last week in Maine that rejoining TPP may be an idea worth considering, “I am going to suggest to the President that we regain our partners in the TPP and present a united front against China.” He gave no indication when that conversation might take place.
American Farm Bureau trade advisor Dave Salmonsen said re-entering the TPP would be good for agriculture, “Getting back involved with TPP, especially the Japanese market, would start to make up some of the losses we are having with China. We estimate that the Japanese component would increase U.S. Ag exports by $4 billion.”
But, would the President reverse his decision on TPP? In April, Mr. Trump seemed to indicate it might be possible, “I don’t want to go back into TPP; but, if they offered us a deal that I can’t refuse on behalf of the United States, I would do it.”
Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Affairs Ted McKinney said, whether it is bilateral trade deals or multilateral deal like TPP, the important thing is to open new markets for US farmers, “It is two different pathways to get to the same place, and we will embrace that.”
Salmonsen suggested that U.S. agriculture has become too dependent on China and needs to diversify and build demand with many different markets. Perdue stated that becoming so dependent on ag trade with China may have been a mistake, “It was a big market, it was easy, but perhaps it was a mistake to become more dependent on them than they are on us.”