WASHINGTON, April 8, 2016 – U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman still believes Congress will pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal this year and his agency is working with lawmakers to draw up the necessary legislation in preparation, Froman said Friday.
“We’re working with the leaders in Congress and the committees to work through outstanding issues to prepare the legislation so that whenever the appropriate window opens up we’ll be ready to move forward,” Froman said at the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s annual conference. “We think it’s very important to move forward this year, in part because the world is not standing still.”
When asked by an Ex-Im panel moderator why he was optimistic when all of the presidential candidates were opposed to TPP, Froman noted that Ohio Governor and Republican candidate John Kasich supported the deal. Forman stressed that USTR is working to convince as many lawmakers as it can.
And it’s working, he said.
Individual lawmakers continue to express reservations about publicly supporting TPP because of the negative political environment, Froman said, but he also stressed that many are swayed after they are briefed.
“We’re spending a lot of time talking about it and we’re going through the agreement and explaining what’s in it … how [lawmaker’s] constituents will benefit if it gets passed and how they’ll be hurt if it doesn’t get passed,” Froman said. “We’re already seeing that. Our cattlemen are losing out to Australia’s cattlemen in Japan because they already have a deal with Japan. They have lower tariffs than we do, so we’re losing 5 percent market share just by waiting to get [TPP] done.”
Japan, already the largest export market for U.S. beef, would eliminate 74 percent of the duties it places on U.S. shipments over 16 years, according to an analysis by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
Beef is just one of the commodities expected to benefit from more trade spurred by a TPP deal. The California Walnut Commission released a statement this week, pushing for ratification of the 12-nation trade deal.
“The walnut industry stands to immediately benefit from the agreement, as tariffs in Japan, the industry’s third largest export market, will drop from 10% to zero,” the group said.
Some on Capitol Hill are not optimistic for TPP passage. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has reportedly told some U.S. business leaders that the chance of getting Congress to pass TPP in a lame duck session is virtually nonexistent.
A spokesperson for Ryan was not available for immediate comment.
But still, Froman said it is very important that TPP be passed this year and vowed to continue working with lawmakers.
“We can’t build walls between ourselves and the global economy,” he told the Ex-Im gathering. “We can’t be isolationists and expect to get the kind of growth that we need to get to produce here and sell all over the world. And so we have to be engaged. We have to open other markets. We can’t just be shaped by globalization. We have to be proactive about shaping it.”
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