WASHINGTON, May 22 2016 - President Obama will be talking up the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Vietnam and Japan this week with an eye toward keeping the pressure on Congress to approve the 12-nation trade pact.
Administration officials hope that showing progress on TPP implementation among Asian TPP partners will make it easier to overcome congressional resistance to the agreement, which has grown with the steady attacks on TPP during the presidential campaign.
The administration had already sent teams to Vietnam, where Obama arrived Sunday, to talk to officials there about what the obligations they’re taking on under the TPP, said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who accompanied Obama on the trip.
Obama can be counted on to talk about TPP when he addresses the Vietnamese people directly on Tuesday from Hanoi, and an aide says the president will discuss the agreement with a group of young entrepreneurs later in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ahead of Obama’s departure Saturday, three congressional critics of the TPP appealed to him to visit a fish farm and garment factory while he’s in Vietnam. The three Democrats charged in a letter to the White House that the aquaculture facilities are overcrowded and make heavy use of antibiotics.
“The country’s food safety regime is dangerously inadequate compared to U.S. standards,” wrote the lawmakers, Louise Slaughter and Paul Tonko of New York and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.
The lawmakers said it’s not enough for Vietnam to show progress in complying with TPP requirements. They “must be fully implemented and enforced in Vietnam. We expect full compliance with the pact.”
Back in Washington, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., continue to negotiate on a biotech disclosure bill. As Agri-Pulse Roberts said he is “very hopeful” the two can reach a deal, but agreement on several issues remain elusive.
Stabenow was doubtful that they could reach a deal before the week-long Memorial Day break, which means the talks will likely continue into June with the July 1 effective date of the Vermont GMO labeling law looming. “Five weeks ago I gave complete legislative language to Sen. Roberts. I’m glad that this week we’re having discussions,” Stabenow said in an interview last week.
The issue is likely to be on the minds of members of the Organic Trade Association as they visit Capitol Hill this week and hold their on Wednesday. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will address the policy conference along with Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, the Senate’s chief proponent of mandatory GMO labeling and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
Also on Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee will hold an unusual hearing on the issue of food waste. The hearing is part of Chairman Mike Conway’s effort to reach out to groups and colleagues beyond conventional agriculture.
That same day, chef food policy advocate Tom Colicchio will be on Capitol Hill with the Food Policy Action Education Fund lobbying lawmakers to address food waste.
Conaway, R-Texas, told Agri-Pulse that food waste is an issue where he’s been finding common ground with groups and lawmakers who are often critical of traditional farm policy. Conaway worked with Maine Democrat Chellie Pingree, a big proponent of organic and small-scale agriculture, in setting up the hearing.
Conaway earlier held a hearing on the challenges facing growers who sell through farmers markets or directly to consumers and restaurants.
Also on Wednesday, executives from several top food and beverage companies, including Kellogg, Mars, PepsiCo and Unilever, will hold a news conference with Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., to talk about the need for Congress to address climate change.
The livestock industry and organic sector will also get attention from policy makers this week. A House Agriculture subcommittee is holding a on the economic issues in the livestock sector on Tuesday and the will follow suit on Thursday.
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, May 23
Tuesday, May 24
Wednesday, May 25
Food Policy Action Education Fund Food Waste Reduction Advocacy Day.
10 a.m. - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at OTA conference.
2 p.m. - Representatives of food and beverage companies hold news conference to call on Congress to address climate change, 1540A Longworth.
Thursday, May 26
Friday, May 27
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