COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho, Aug. 2, 2016 – The United States’ top agricultural trade negotiator warned Monday that if Congress fails to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership during its lame-duck session following the presidential election, it could be years before the trade deal wins approval – if ever.
Speaking at the International Sweeteners Symposium in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Amb. Darci Vetter, chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, acknowledged that persuading lawmakers to support the ambitious 12-nation accord is proving difficult, especially with the statements being made by the two major presidential candidates and their supporters.
“I’ve never seen a higher level of anti-trade rhetoric,” Vetter said, calling on the sugar producers in the audience to lobby their representatives in Congress to support TPP, which she said would make agriculture “a big winner.”
Vetter, a former deputy under secretary at USDA, said the U.S. economy stands to lose $94 billion in benefits during every year the accord is delayed. Beyond that, she said, the U.S. would also lose standing abroad, especially in the Asia-Pacific region where China is aggressively moving to forge its own trade treaties.
President Obama has not yet sent a bill implementing TPP to Congress, which would start the clock on a 90-day timeline for a vote on the legislation. Before that happens, Vetter said her office would like to make sure congressional leaders are committed to getting a bill through.
“We don’t want to start the clock without a commitment from leadership,” Vetter said, adding that the administration needs the help of the sugar industry, and all of agriculture, to get TPP “across the finish line.”
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