WASHINGTON, July 1, 2015 – Now that President Obama has signed a bill to put pending trade deals on the “fast track,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the administration has “great momentum” to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and to generate more enthusiasm for a potential Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) deal with the European Union.   

“We can now tell our negotiating partners that we can have an up or down vote in Congress. And we have our instructions from Congress in terms of what is important to them,” Vilsack said during an interview with Agri-Pulse. And he expects that, in some respects, selling the TPP in Washington might be an easier proposition than Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). To listen to Vilsack discuss trade and COOL, click here:

“It could be easier because we will have a (TPP) document that everyone can see and read before the vote,” Vilsack noted. He’s confident Americans are going to see a TPP with expanded market access for U.S. agricultural products, a better system for addressing sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, and an improved process by which the U.S. can strike down those barriers that are not science-based. The pending deal with 11 other countries throughout the Asian-Pacific region could expand exports by $123 billion, he added.

“Every time we increase ag exports by $1 billion, it supports 6,500 jobs,” Vilsack added. So when a new trade pact is in hand, “you will be able to talk about specifics, the improvements to market access and the industries that will benefit.”

Still, Vilsack says “it’s key that we get these negotiations concluded quickly and I think that’s the intent from Ambassador Froman and his team at USTR…. hopefully, sometime this fall we’ll see Congress weighing in and hopefully getting the votes to pass.”

Some trade analysts suggests that the core of the deal could be completed as early as this month. New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser suggested such a timeline on Tuesday, according to Scoop Business.

"Now that Congress has spoken, it is showtime," Groser said in a speech to the US/NZ Partnership Forum in Auckland. "I have learned never to be dogmatic about timetables, but the scenario that I and my negotiators are working to is that we have to get the basic political deal done by the end of July, including finalising all the chapter texts, leaving only legal rectification by experts to be done thereafter," the New Zealand website reported.

But moving too quickly may reduce the chances for the U.S. and Canada to come to terms on tough issues like dairy policy reform.

Collin Peterson, the House Committee on Agriculture’s ranking Democrat, told Agri-Pulse that one of the things he was trying to do with his “no” vote on TPA was delay moving the measure to the president “because it would make it more likely that we’d be able to get a good outcome with the Canadians.

“They have an election coming up in September. If they got rid of their (dairy) supply management system or what was seen as getting rid of it….they would lose the election. So I don’t think the Canadians are in a position to make a deal before the election,” he added.

However, Vilsack offered optimism about negotiations with our northern trading partners.

“I wouldn’t say they’ve come to the table completely but we have seen indications recently of a willingness to negotiate more in good faith than they have in the past. Passage of TPA removes that last excuse the Canadians have been using to not negotiate in a meaningful and strong way.”


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