WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2015 — House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan says the U.S. should complete a Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations --without the participation of countries who think U.S. standards in the negotiations are too high.
In a speech to the Washington International Trade Association – billed as Ryan’s first public address on trade – Ryan made it clear that he was referring to Japan and Canada, which have rejected demands that they lower tariffs on agricultural goods, which in Japan’s case reach as high as 700 percent. He said Canada’s duties on poultry, eggs and dairy products are also too high.
“Those have to go,” said Ryan, a Republican from the big dairy state of Wisconsin. “And if any of the 12 countries currently in the talks think our standards are too high, well, I’d complete the agreement without them and invite them to join it later.”
Ryan also said he supports the treaty currently being negotiated with the European Union – the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP. But he said Europe must agree to eliminate all tariffs – “every one of them, just as they promised at the outset,” and agree to science-based regulations governing imports of U.S. agricultural products.
Ryan noted a “beef” he has with European demands on so-called “geographical indicators,” special language used on certain products that correspond to a specific geographical location or region. Parmesan cheese, for example, couldn’t be labeled as such unless it was made in or around Parma, Italy.
“So since a Wisconsin brat isn’t from Germany, they want us to label it a 'bratwurst-like sausage' -- which to me makes about as much sense as saying the Green Bay Packers engage in a 'soccer-like activity.'”
Before the U.S. can conclude TPP and T-TIP negotiations, Ryan said Congress should revive “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which gives a president the authority to negotiate a treaty that would go before Congress for only an up or down vote, with no amendments or filibusters.
“Here’s the issue,” Ryan said. “When the United States sits down at the negotiating table, every country at that table has to be able to trust us. They have to know that the deal the administration wants is the deal Congress wants — because if our trading partners don’t trust the administration — if they think it will make commitments that Congress will undo later — they won’t make concessions. Why run the risk for no reason?”
“I think of it more as a contract,” Ryan explained. “We say to the administration, if you want this up-or-down vote, you have to meet three requirements: Number one, you have to follow our guidelines. Number two, you have to talk to us. And number three, you have to remember: We get the final say.”
Ryan said the TPA and the trade agreements being negotiated will challenge Congress but they need to get done.
“We can’t lose sight of the bigger picture — of what we’re doing and why — because it’s not just our economy that’s on the line, it’s our credibility,” something he said that has taken a beating in the last few years.
“We’ve left the world wondering, 'Does the United States have staying power? Will it stick it out?' Finishing these trade deals would emphatically say, 'Yes. Yes, you can count on the United States. We will be there. We won’t abandon the field. We will stick up for free enterprise and free people.’”
Ryan spoke on the same day that the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and 70 other food and agricultural organizations petitioned Congress to quickly introduce and approve legislation renewing TPA.
In a letter to all 535 members of Congress, the groups said TPP will allow U.S. trade negotiators the ability to “extract the best deals possible from other countries.” NPPC has also called for U.S. negotiators to conclude a TPP agreement without Japan, if the Asian nation refuses to significantly reduce tariffs that protect its so-called “sacred” agricultural products, including pork and beef, dairy, rice, wheat and sugar.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council, meanwhile applauded Ryan for his “strong message” to Japan and Canada – that they must open their markets to U.S. dairy farmers or not be part of the final Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“Too many times in the past, Canada has gotten a pass on its impenetrable tariff wall on dairy imports,” NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern said. “It is time Canada provides significant market access on all dairy products, from cheese to butter to milk.”
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