WASHINGTON, June 15, 2016 - Representatives of the U.S. agriculture sector say they will keep on fighting to build support in the country and on Capitol Hill for the Trans-Pacific Partnership despite a lack of enthusiasm for their efforts among many members of Congress. 

“We’re not going to give up,” Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation President Kevin Paap told Agri-Pulse after a two-hour House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on agricultural trade. “This is too important to agriculture … not to continue to push.”

Paap, who testified during the hearing, said he realizes that he and other farm leaders were up against a Congress that doesn’t seem willing to hold a vote this year on the 12-nation trade deal, but he’s still holding out hope. 

Several members of the trade subcommittee, including Chairman Dave Reichert, R-Wash, professed support for the TPP, but leaders in both the House and Senate have been pessimistic about getting a vote on the trade pact this year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Agri-Pulse in April that the prospects of a vote this year looked “bleak.” 

In his testimony, Paap stressed that the trade deal involving the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam may boost net farm income by $4.4 billion annually thanks to steep reduction in tariffs and the removal of sanitary and phytosanitary barriers. 

The benefits alone from Japan’s TPP promises will be a massive boon for U.S. pork exports, National Pork Producers President John Weber told lawmakers. The country is already the most valuable foreign market for U.S. pork producers – worth about $1.58 billion in 2015 – and that’s despite Japan’s steep tariffs. 

Dale Foreman, chairman of the Washington-based Foreman Fruit Company, told lawmakers they must pass TPP because of the tariff reductions that will benefit American apples, pears, cherries and other fruit. 

Vietnam is the sixth-largest foreign market for U.S. apples despite the 10 percent tariff the country imposes and the competition with Australia and New Zealand, neither of which is subject to the tariff. If the TPP is ratified, Foreman said, Vietnam would completely lift the 10 percent levy. 

Reichert agreed with the witnesses that TPP would be a significant help to American farmers, but he also expressed concerns about the government’s ability to enforce provisions of the deal.

“The TPP agreement also holds great promise. It would eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs and quotas for agricultural exports to the fastest growing region in the world,” Reichert said. 

“However, trade agreements must be done right and must be fully implemented and enforced to benefit America’s agricultural producers.” Reichert said he was particularly concerned about Canada not living up to its pledge to increase access to U.S. dairy exports.


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