WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2016 - President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for his first 100 days in office may include plans to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but ag groups backing the deal are optimistic that won’t be the case.
Speaking to Agri-Pulse at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual convention in Kansas City last week, not a single pro-TPP organization was willing to concede that the deal had a dismal future. In fact, the chief lobbyist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said he’s holding out hope that Congress will approve the deal in the lame duck.
“(TPP) remains our number-one issue. In fact, we hope we get it done before (Trump) even comes in as president,” NCBA’s Colin Woodall told Agri-Pulse. “We’re telling everybody that it’s now or never. If we don’t get it done by Christmas, we’re probably not going to have the opportunity to get TPP done.”
Woodall may think that getting the votes to move TPP through Congress is “within the realm of possibility,” but positive indications from Capitol Hill are hard to come by. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy didn’t even mention the deal in his first press conference after the election, and a spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan said Ryan’s previously stated intention not to bring TPP up for a vote has not changed.
According to the guidelines of the Trade Promotion Authority approved by Congress in 2015, the process for congressional approval would actually be initiated by the administration submitting the deal to Congress, and the administration has yet to signal an intention to do so. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, the administration’s top trade official, admitted this week that the deal currently sits in “purgatory.”
Even for the most optimistic of TPP proponents, lame duck passage was always a slim prospect. Now, some ag groups are now expressing an openness to the new administration renegotiating the treaty.
“If Mr. Trump truly knows what is bad in TPP and can fix it, we would be a teammate in making that happen,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said. “I’m sure there are some things outside of agriculture that need to be fixed and have some attention brought to it in TPP.”
Duvall and others expressed the belief that ag trade is not the issue with TPP opponents, so renegotiating the deal might not hurt those sections that are beneficial to agriculture. Even the National Farmers Union, an organization that has long been skeptical of trade deals, seems to be open to letting a Trump administration take a crack at a new TPP.
“I think it has to get renegotiated, and it should be,” NFU President Roger Johnson told Agri-Pulse. “That’s not going to be an easy task. He’s said he can do it, he’s going to have a chance to do it.”
Johnson added that he knew of NFU members that voted for Trump because of his stance on trade. “That’s largely, I believe, the reason he was elected,” he said.
National Pork Producers Council President John Weber said his group has been told reopening TPP would be “very difficult,” especially as more countries ratify the agreement.
“I wouldn’t say it’s impossible; that may be an avenue that we open it up and renegotiate some of these areas,” he said. “I think it’s too early for us to predict what will happen to that, but certainly we would be engaged if that were to happen. If you just withdraw from it, I think we’re going to lose market share and market access in these other countries.”
However, Weber and others insisted that deciding to sit it out when it comes to trade negotiations isn’t a good idea, either. While they’re open to Trump’s pledge to negotiate better deals, completely walking away from trade agreements like TPP would not go over well in ag circles.
“I think it’s going to be extremely difficult for the GOP platform to maintain an isolationism strategy,” Weber said. “I think Donald Trump may be right; we’re going to negotiate for better deals. As U.S. pork producers, we have to participate in these trade agreements. Every (past trade deal) has been successful for us.”
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