Pork producers, cattlemen urge Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2015 - The National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association are urging Congress to renew the president's Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), as a way to help the Obama administration close trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

TPA establishes consultation and notification requirements for a president to follow throughout the negotiation process. Once negotiators reach a deal, however, Congress would have to vote up or down on the treaty, with no amendments or filibusters. Congress has granted TPA to every president since 1974, with the most recent law approved in August 2002 and expiring in 2007.

“Pork producers and U.S. agriculture are dependent on export markets, so NPPC is going to fight tooth and nail to get TPA passed,” NPPC President Howard Hill, a pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa, said today in a news release.

Lets Talk Food

In a letter to every member of Congress, Hill argued that trade agreements such as TPP, which is being negotiated with 11 other Pacific Rim nations, are vital to U.S. exports. He pointed out that since the 1989 U.S. Canada Free Trade Agreement, U.S. pork exports have jumped to more than $6.5 billion a year, from $395 million, a 16-fold increase.

The TPA, he said, would be even more lucrative for U.S. exporters, with its member nations accounting for 40 percent of global GDP.

“Passage of legislation renewing TPA would send a strong signal to the TPP countries and to the world that the United States is committed to expanding global trade,” Hill wrote.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, meanwhile, pointed out under TPP, the U.S. beef industry could see the elimination of tariff and non-tariff trade barriers that currently hinder the industry's ability to meet beef demand in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The governments of many of our competitors are actively engaged in negotiating trade agreements with growing consumer markets around the world,” NCBA President Bob McCan said in a release. “Unless the United States takes a similar aggressive approach to secure free trade agreements, we will lose market share; not due to the quality of our products, but because our products will be more expensive due to import tariffs. While the final terms of the agreement are still far from conclusion, TPP could give the United States a stronger foothold in the growing Asian and Pacific Rim markets.”

One roadblock to a TPP agreement has been Japan's insistence that it be allowed to continue to protect it so-called “sacred” agricultural products, including beef and pork, dairy, rice, wheat and sugar. NPPC's Hill said “significant progress” has been made recently with respect to Japan's market access offer on pork. Still, McCan said the final terms of an agreement are “farm from conclusion.”

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The National Chicken Council (NCC) also called for prompt passage of TPA.

“With 20 percent of our production being exported to more than 100 countries, outside-the-border customers are becoming more and more important, especially for our dark meat,” NCC President Mike Brown said in a statement.

Brown noted that poultry trade with Russia and China, once the two largest export markets, have been severely disrupted, adding “It is now more important than ever to expand poultry sales to other world markets."

In regards to TPP, Brown said the chicken industry hopes to see that the long-protected Canadian market is finally opened to trade.

 "In our view, the Canadian market should have been opened to free trade as a result of NAFTA,” he said. “If TPP is truly a free trade agreement, then there should be free trade in poultry between the United States and Canada, not just one-way market access for Canada.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he was not surprised by the “chorus” of agricultural producer voices, which included the National Turkey Federation, calling on Congress to renew TPA.

“The past six years were the strongest period for agricultural exports in the history of our nation, despite the fact that many other countries' markets are not as open to American products as our markets are to theirs,” Vilsack said.

“New trade agreements that help level the playing field for agriculture will build on the success we've seen in the agricultural economy since 2009 and help producers create more new jobs across the country. What makes the agricultural economy stronger makes our entire nation's economy stronger. It is imperative that Congress act on Trade Promotion Authority early this year."

Vilsack said that in fiscal years 2009 through 2014, exports of U.S. agricultural totaled $771.7 billion, with shipments reaching a record $152.5 billion in 2014. Those exports supported nearly 1 million jobs, he said, a substantial part of the nearly 11.3 million jobs supported by exports all across our country.

Negotiations on TPP, which includes the U.S., Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, are drawing to a conclusion. The latest round of talks got under way Monday in New York. .

House Ways and Means Committee member Kristi Noem, R-S.D., told the Red River Farm Network that the TPA legislation will be moving through the panel in March.

(This story was updated at 5:50 p.m.)

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