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U.S. ag seeking TPA approval

By Staff | Jun 10, 2015

-Farm News photo by Larry Kershner DARCI VETTER, chief agriculture negociator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, tells an audience on June 3 that securing agreements for the Trans-Pacific Partnership has the potential for a $123.5 billion increase in ag exports, creating 650,000 jobs. She spoke at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines.

By LARRY KERSHNER

kersh@farm-news.com

DES MOINES By 2030, 66 percent of the world’s middle class is expected to be Asians.

As a new middle class arises, said Darci Vetter, chief agricultural negociator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, they will be looking for more protein in their diets, especially red meat.

And she said it’s her job to get U.S. agriculture’s foot in the door as that increased protein demand becomes reality.

Vetter said she’s responsible for bilateral and multilateral negotiations, and policy coordination regarding agricultural trade, and is working within the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

To accomplish that, she said the current Trade Promotion Authority debate in the House must be approved. The Senate approved TPA on May 22.

The TPP is a controversial free trade agreement being negotiated behind closed doors by officials from the United States and 11 other countries Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The USTR said a successful TPP outcome will benefit American small businesses, which account for nearly two-thirds of new private sector jobs in recent decades.

Failure to give the president trade authority, Vetter said, will ruin the U.S. position with other TPP nations, that are already working out separate trade agreements among themselves.

China, for instance, has trade agreements in place with 17 other countries, Vetter said.

The TPP will improve transparency and regulations to help U.S. companies engage in and benefit from increased trade in the Asia Pacific.

“Of all the exports going to Asia,” Vetter told an audience Wednesday at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, “Forty-two percent is agricultural.”

She said that since the growing Asian middle class has the potential of significantly expanding U.S. ag product demand, getting the U.S. onboard with TPP is crucial.

Implementation of the TPP is one of the primary goals of the trade agenda of the Obama administration.

The potential benefits to U.S. ag, Vetter said, is a $123.5 billion increase in exports per year which could create or support as many as 65,000 jobs.

Vetter said successful TPP negotiations will lead to eliminated and reduced tariffs, largely on processed food.

“And we’re going to do the same,” Vetter said. “TPP has advantages for developed and developing nations all at the same table.”

A TPP export alliance, she said, “is an important risk-management took for the U.S.”

Japan imports about $4.7 billion of U.S. pork products annually, Vetter said, while Vietnam imports another $2 billion in U.S. pork.

“We think we can increase that significantly,” Vetter said, through TPP. “We are in the end zone of TPP negotiations.

“We are dealing with the hardest issues, and we can’t do it without TPA.”

She said Congress must pass TPA “so I know what to achieve and communicate.”

Vetter later said she is optimistic of congressional approval of TPA.

“The benefits speak for themselves,” she said, “and we think we have strong support.

“I think we’ll get there.”

SIDEBAR

NPPC To ‘key vote’ House TPA vote

WASHINGTON (NPPC) – The National Pork Producers Council announced on June 3 its intention to score the vote on Trade Promotion Authority in the U.S. House of Representatives as a key vote.

“Periodically, NPPC will score members of Congress on their votes on issues and legislation that are of paramount importance to the livelihoods of America’s pork producers,” said Ron Prestage, president of NPPC and a South Carolina producer. “These scores then will be made public so voters have this information when determining the candidate of their choice in the next election.”

TPA defines U.S. negotiating objectives and priorities for trade agreements and establishes consultation and notification requirements for the president to follow throughout the negotiation process.

Once trade negociators finalize a deal, Congress gets to review it and vote yes or no (without amendments) on it.

Congress has granted TPA to every president since 1974, with the most recent law being approved in August 2002 and expiring June 30, 2007.

The key reason TPA is needed, Prestage said, is for concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations among the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries.

According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, the TPP deal would be the most significant commercial opportunity ever for U.S. pork producers, generating more than 10,000 pork industry jobs.

“U.S. trade negociators will have the final leverage they need to close the TPP negotiations when Congress passes TPA,” said Prestage. “It will allow nations to cut to their bottom line negotiating position in TPP.”

Since 1989 – the year the United States began using bilateral and regional trade agreements to open foreign markets – pork exports have increased 1,550 percent in value and 1,268 percent in volume.

The U.S. shipped more than $6.6 billion in pork products to international destinations in 2014.

The U.S. pork industry exports more pork to the 20 countries with which the U.S. has free trade agreements than to the rest of the nations combined.

Prestage said that “each and every one of the free trade agreements that got us that tremendous growth in exports were made possible by the enactment of Trade Promotion Authority bills.

“That is why NPPC and virtually every other agricultural organization in the United States are in favor of Congress expeditiously moving TPA legislation.”

Failure to pass TPA, Prestage said, would send a signal to the world that the United States is turning its back on the Asia-Pacific region – the fastest growing area in the world – and allowing other countries to write the rules for international trade.

“The U.S. pork industry, U.S. agriculture, indeed the entire U.S. economy needs TPA, and we need it soon,” said Prestage. “And if House lawmakers vote against TPA, we’ll hold them accountable.”

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