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Trade ministers from a dozen Pacific nations meet in Atlanta. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

Vilsack on TPP

An announcement was made on Monday morning that an agreement has been reached on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.  The 12-country trade agreement covers 40 per cent of the global economy and could reshape industries as well as influence everything from the price of cheese to the cost of cancer treatments. Japan’s prime minister said a dozen nations had reached “broad agreement” on the TPP, which aims to service the world’s largest free-trade zone. “It is a major outcome not just for Japan but also for the future of the Asia-Pacific,” Shinzo Abe told reporters. President Barack Obama said the agreement “leveled the playing field” for farmers and manufacturers “by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products.”

Five days of round the clock negotiations in Atlanta by trade negotiators have resulted in an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, made official by the administration’s announcement Monday. A good TPP agreement will be good for farmers, according to many ag groups reacting Monday, and the USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack.

“It’s going to significantly reduce the tariffs,” he said. “It’s going to create more of a science based system for determining when a sanitary and phytosanitary regulation makes sense and when it’s consistent with science.”

Some have said the agreement could boost U.S. ag exports by $2.8 billion within 10 years, but Vilsack says there’s more to it than that.

“Over time we’ll see increased opportunities as well for the countries on the other side of the negotiating table.”

The ag benefits for the other 11 countries could hit $5 billion in total. All 12 nations must ratify the agreement and the full details of the partnership will not be released until President Obama presents it to Congress. Groups like the American Soybean Association, American Farm Bureau, the National Pork Producers Council, and the National Corn Growers Association all expressed cautious optimism Monday, saying they need to carefully read the terms of the agreement before making a final judgment.

As the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Kent Bacus explains, the conclusion of negotiations is a big step.

“We’re excited that after a few delays over the weekend we were able to see the announcement of conclusion of negotiations. We’re just very excited about this simply because for every day that this deal was going to be held out, it would put cattle producers further behind our major competitors in the Asian market. So we’re very excited to see the announcement of the conclusion of these negotiations.”

Bacus is Director of Legislative Affairs for NCBA

Once the text has been finalized the TPP must be made public for at least 60 days before being presented to Congress.

Bob Stallman, President of American Farm Bureau said, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership has promised to open restricted markets for American business around the Pacific Rim. The American Farm Bureau Federation looks forward to reviewing the details of the agreement reached today to guarantee it fulfills that promise for the nation’s farmers and ranchers.

“We hope the agreement will bring a more level playing field for farmers and ranchers by reducing tariffs and removing non-science based barriers to trade. The agreement covers markets that are expected to grow rapidly for decades to come. We expect to see increased access for our agricultural products, particularly some meats.

“We commend U.S. Trade Representative Froman and Chief Agricultural Negotiator Vetter for their longstanding support and determination to reach an agreement,” Stallman added. “Now it is up to us to figure out exactly what we have and how we should work with Congress to improve international market opportunities for U.S. farmers and ranchers through the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling, a farmer from Newburg, Maryland, said “NCGA is pleased that an agreement has been reached in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. We are hopeful that this agreement continues the tradition of past free trade agreements, which have had a positive impact for America’s farmers and ranchers. In the coming weeks, we will carefully examine the agreement to determine whether it is in the best interests of America’s corn farmers. The Asia-Pacific region represents 40 percent of the world’s economy, a huge opportunity for American agriculture. The United States Trade Representative has promised a high-standard, comprehensive, and meaningful trade agreement. When the full text of the agreement is released, we will review it to ensure this is the case. NCGA is committed to fair and open trade policies that give farmers greater access to markets and level the global playing field.”

Following news out of Atlanta that negotiators from the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) nations have reached a final agreement, the American Soybean Association (ASA), which represents growers of the nation’s top agricultural export commodity, applauded the achievement and promised a careful review of the agreement’s specifics over the coming days. ASA President Wade Cowan, a farmer from Brownfield, Texas, issued the following statement: “ASA applauds trade ministers from the 12 nations that make up the Trans-Pacific Partnership for concluding an agreement that is intended to create more opportunities, economic growth, and jobs. Over half of the soybeans produced by American farmers are exported overseas, and export markets are extremely important to our domestic livestock customers as well. This trade agreement has the potential to increase agricultural exports to new markets and to allow U.S. farmers to better compete in existing markets. From the outset of these negotiations, ASA has been supportive of a TPP that expands the access of American soybean farmers to our customers overseas. From the statements made by our negotiators, it appears that the agreement will eliminate tariffs and other market access barriers in most markets, and substantially increase access in remaining markets. We are optimistic that soybeans, soybean products, and the livestock products produced by our customers all will fare well in the TPP agreement when specific details are revealed. ASA plans to carefully read the terms of the agreement to ensure that soybean farmers as well as livestock producers, which represent a substantial market for soy products, are getting a fair deal before rendering a final judgment on the TPP agreement; everything that we’ve seen and heard thus far makes us feel very positive. ASA thanks the U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials who have been working tirelessly on behalf of U.S. farmer throughout the TPP process.”

In a statement Vilsack added, “Increased demand for American agricultural products and expanded agricultural exports as a result of this agreement will support stronger commodity prices and increase farm income. Increased exports under TPP will create more good paying export-related jobs, further strengthening the rural economy. Today, agricultural trade supports more than 1 million jobs here at home and contributes a trade surplus year after year to our nation’s economy. All of this activity benefits rural communities and keeps American agriculture on the cutting edge of global commerce. The TPP agreement will contribute to the future strength of American agriculture and helps to ensure that the historic agricultural trade gains achieved under President Obama since 2009 will continue.”

“NPPC played an active role throughout the five-plus years of negotiations,” said Pork Producers Association President Dr. Ron Prestage, “providing U.S. negotiators with key information on barriers we face in the 11 other TPP countries and offering guidance on outcomes that would ensure substantial new market access benefits for U.S. pork in those markets.”  National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president Phillip Ellis said, “While the full details of the partnership will not be released until the President presents it to Congress, cattle producers are assured this is a true 21st century agreement. The TPP will immediately reduce tariffs and level the playing field for U.S. beef exports to these growing markets. TPP is a major win not only for the beef industry, but for all U.S. export products, growing the economy while supporting jobs and investments in agriculture and technology.”  The National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council were pleased that an agreement had been reached but were anxious to see the details of the deal.   National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling also said corn growers will want to examine the details of the agreement, ”

We are hopeful that this agreement continues the tradition of past free trade agreements, which have had a positive impact for America’s farmers and ranchers. In the coming weeks, we will carefully examine the agreement to determine whether it is in the best interests of America’s corn farmers.”

The National Farmers Union, a long time skeptic of international trade agreements, expressed opposition to the TPP agreement. “Just as we feared, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is moving forward without any meaningful language addressing one of the chief tools used by our trade competitors to ensure the playing field is never fair: currency manipulation,” said NFU president Roger Johnson. “Because of this, NFU will continue to vigorously oppose this agreement and urge Congress to reject this deal as well. Gains that may have been made in the agreement to ensure fairness and equity in trade for America’s family farmers and ranchers are likely to be lost due to currency manipulation.”

The TPP agreement will likely face a long and contentious adoption process in Congress.  House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway said, in a statement, “We have long discussed the potential benefits of TPP for all of American agriculture. That being said, I have repeatedly expressed concerns to our negotiators about the lack of progress in several key areas that, if not adequately addressed, would make passage of this agreement incredibly difficult in the House.  Last week, I sent a letter along with 16 of my colleagues to USTR Ambassador Froman to express concern about lack of market access for rice and dairy and concern about a new carve-out proposal for tobacco, establishing a dangerous new precedent that could negatively impact agriculture going forward. The letter also expressed concern about market access for sugar, encouraging U.S. negotiators not to go beyond the parameters of what the U.S. had already offered after consultation with the U.S. industry. While I am encouraged to hear that U.S. livestock products such as beef and pork will see significant gains in market access, it will take a coalition of many to move TPP over the coming months. At this time, I am skeptical that these concerns were sufficiently addressed but will remain open-minded, and I look forward to studying the agreement.”

 



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