The National Pork Producers Council applauded the January 9 introduction of congressional legislation to grant President Barack Obama Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) as a means to conclude a successful Pacific Rim trade deal.
The Obama administration is working now to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional trade negotiation that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for nearly 40 percent of global gross domestic product.
TPA, also known as "fast-track," allows the president to negotiate trade agreements based on strategic goals and objectives outlined in the legislation, with ongoing congressional oversight. Deals concluded under TPA are subject to congressional approval without amendments.
While passage of TPA is important to getting a TPP agreement - and future deals such as the U.S.-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement - approved, NPPC pointed out that the even bigger issue is finalizing a comprehensive, high-standard TPP deal. And that means an agreement that includes Japan - the U.S. pork industry's No. 1 export market - with tariffs eliminated in all of its industry sectors, including agriculture.
Japan is demanding special treatment for its agriculture sector, including exclusion from the agreement or special protection of certain "sensitive" products.
In a December letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, an NPPC-led coalition of agricultural groups pointed out that, if Japan is allowed to claim exceptions for sensitive products, other TPP countries inevitably will demand the right to do the same, and the TPP talks could unravel. Such an action, the coalition said, also would set a terrible precedent, affecting future trade agreements, including the TTIP.
"Getting TPA introduced and approved is an important step in the trade process, and we are supportive," said NPPC President Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn., "but our main focus will be making sure Japan eliminates farm tariffs at least as quickly as was done by South Korea in its trade deal with the U.S.
"We will oppose a TPP agreement in which tariffs on pork and other farm products are not quickly eliminated."