WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2015 - As work continues in the U.S. to rally support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), 11 other countries are also considering the deal and its implications.

Congress isn’t officially expected to approve or reject the agreement until the first few months of 2016 at the earliest, but last week, U.S. Meat Export Federation CEO Philip Seng told Agri-Pulse ratification by all the countries involved may not happen until 2018, as the nations deal with issues such as changes in leadership and in many cases, growing public skepticism.

The new Canadian government doesn’t appear to be a threat to the agreement. After Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party was victorious on Oct. 19, he and President Obama shared a phone call where they discussed “the need to move forward with implementing the high standards of the agreement,” according to the White House. Media reports had Canada’s new prime minister expressing similar sentiments in a call with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, where both leaders “agreed to promote” the deal.

Abe is in a tough position on the agreement, according to National Pork Producers Vice President for Global Government Affairs Nick Giordano. Of the gains that the U.S. made in market access through the agreement, many were made in Japan, so Giordano said American agriculture should tip its collective cap to Abe.

“Who of us would have thought even five years ago that the U.S. would negotiate a free trade agreement with Japan, where, for the most part, agriculture’s opened up?” Giordano said, calling the progress on U.S.-Japan negotiations “amazing.”

As potentially troubling as the agreement might be in Japan, Giordano said it is “extremely sensitive” in Malaysia.

“We’ve got a lot of sectors in other countries that have concerns too, and I believe that’s it’s probably the most sensitive in Malaysia,” he said.

Concerns have been raised in the Southeast Asian country that the deal would harm the economy by increasing competition from foreign businesses and make medicines more expensive through the language concerning biologics. Malaysia has also been criticized for its labor standards, which would face changes under the agreement.

Both Giordano and Seng said each TPP country will have sensitive issues to deal with, but neither think those issues will be sufficient to derail support for the agreement.

“They all have issues they want to protect,” Seng said. “So in all of these trade agreements, people play offense, but they also play defense.”

Giordano said global approval of the deal is based on a share of economic output, which means Japan, the U.S. and at least four other countries must ratify TPP for it to be recognized as an agreement. He said he expects TPP to receive approval by the respective legislative bodies in “virtually every country” beginning in early 2016. He also anticipates “unprecedented support” from agriculture in the U.S., and hopes that will lead to congressional approval.

“Think about how this looks to the rest of the world if the United States, which is largely driving the bus in the TPP negotiations, walks away from it,” Giordano said, calling TPP “the biggest and most important trade deal the U.S. has ever negotiated.”


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