Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement reached with finalized negotiationWritten by Saige Albert
Washington, D.C. – On Oct. 5, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have concluded, representing the announcement of a groundbreaking step in global trade efforts.
“Agreement on the TPP negotiations provides a more level playing field in trade for American farmers,” Vilsack commented. “Countries in the TPP currently account for up to 42 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports, totaling $63 billion.”
The agreement and removal of unfair trade barriers, Vilsack continued, opens further opportunities for agricultural products from across the nation.
“This is the largest, multi-lateral trade agreement of its kind,” he said. “This is a 21st century agreement. It is a high value, high standards agreement that will also allow the U.S. and member states to counter the Chinese influence and make sure everyone is encouraged to step up their game to the higher standards of the TPP.”
As a major contribution, Vilsack mentioned that the agreement includes elimination or reduction of tariffs across a broad spectrum of America’s agricultural products, including beef, pork, poultry, dairy, horticulture products, rice, grains, soybeans, wheat, cotton, processed products, alcohol and wine.
“Virtually every commodity group will see elimination or reductions in tariffs or expanded preferential access,” Vilsack noted.
A release from USDA said Japan’s beef tariff, currently as high as 50 percent, will be reduced to nine percent. Japan will eliminate duties on 75 percent of tariff lines, including processed beef products. Vietnam will eliminate tariffs and Malaysia will lock tariffs in at zero percent.
USDA Economic Research Service data from 2013 listed that beef and veal was Wyoming’s top ag export, followed by hides and skins, feeds and fodder, pork and wheat. Wyoming exports totaled $389 million in 2013, and 2,900 jobs were supported by exports in the state.
U.S. Meat Export Federation Senior Vice President Thad Lively commented, “The big prize here, I would say, for the meat industry is Japan and then after that probably Vietnam. Those are two markets where we historically faced very high duties.”
Among the benefits seen in the TPP, Vilsack said, “The agreement would deter non-science based sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) barriers that have put American agriculture at a disadvantage in TPP countries in the past.”
Agriculture products, Vilsack said, have a history of being excluded from markets based on SPS rules not based on risk or science. Historically, biotechnology has been included in those SPS rules.
“The agreement also includes a significant nod to organic ag and the desire to be engaged in discussion about equivalences so we can reduce barriers to organic exports that may occur,” he added.
The agriculture industry largely commended USDA for their work in the agreement.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Philip Ellis of Chugwater said, this agreement will boost U.S. exports.
“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,” said Ellis. “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.”
American Farm Bureau Federation’s President Bob Stallman added, “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.”
Though many in the ag industry were overall positive on the deal, some Congressmen expressed concerns.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) commented, “While the details are still emerging, unfortunately I am afraid this deal appears to fall woefully short.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) echoed concerns, adding, “Wall Street and other big corporations have won again.”
Sen. Sanders also said the agreement would hurt consumers and the American jobs market.
With an agreement reached, there are still several steps before the TPP is complete.
The final text of the TPP will be available in the next 30 days. Currently, teams of lawyers are reviewing the text of the document to ensure the language conforms with the intent of the agreement.
Congress has the power to either ratify or reject the agreement with an up-or-down vote, but they cannot amend the TPP.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told reporters on Oct. 5, “This is really a 2016 issue for Congress to consider, not a 2015 issue,” explaining that deliberations on the agreement would take months.
“There will be a process by which stakeholders, members of Congress and the general public will be provided information about the specifics of the agreement,” Vilsack said. “I think it is fair to say that agriculture is a winner, and we will do everything we can to make sure folks understand the historic nature and opportunity of this agreement.”