Negotiators from 12 countries reached an agreement on October 5 on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), resulting in a trade pact that vows to cut trade barriers as well as set labor and environmental standards.

Countries involved in the negotiations that stretched over a time span of more than five years are the United States, Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Reactions mixed from US leaders

Signs of partisan disagreement have already surfaced, as U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, and U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway, a Republican, have expressed differing levels of confidence in how the agreement will affect trade of U.S. Agriculture products.

The agreement is being hailed by Vilsack, who issued the following statement: "An agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations provides a more level playing field in trade for American farmers. The agreement would eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs on our products and deter non-science based sanitary and phytosanitary barriers that have put American agriculture at a disadvantage in TPP countries in the past. Despite these past barriers, countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently account for up to 42 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports, totaling $63 billion. Thanks to this agreement and its removal of unfair trade barriers, American agricultural exports to the region will expand even further, particularly exports of meat, poultry, dairy, fruits, vegetables, grains, oilseeds, cotton and processed products.

"Increased demand for American agricultural products and expanded agricultural exports as a result of this agreement will support stronger commodity prices and increase farm income. Increased exports under TPP will create more good paying export-related jobs, further strengthening the rural economy. Today, agricultural trade supports more than 1 million jobs here at home and contributes a trade surplus year after year to our nation's economy. All of this activity benefits rural communities and keeps American agriculture on the cutting edge of global commerce. The TPP agreement will contribute to the future strength of American agriculture and helps to ensure that the historic agricultural trade gains achieved under President Obama since 2009 will continue.”

However, Conaway is not as confident.

“We have long discussed the potential benefits of TPP for all of American agriculture. That being said, I have repeatedly expressed concerns to our negotiators about the lack of progress in several key areas that, if not adequately addressed, would make passage of this agreement incredibly difficult in the House,” said Conaway.  

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Specifically, Conaway is concerned about a lack of market access for U.S. rice, sugar and dairy products.

“At this time, I am skeptical that these concerns were sufficiently addressed but will remain open-minded, and I look forward to studying the agreement,” said Conaway.

Industry groups react to TPP agreement

Since industry groups have not had the opportunity to see the full text of the agreement, they have been guarded in their response to the TPP pact. However, initial reactions have been ones of optimism.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), in a press release, stated it was confident that the agreement will benefit all sectors of the U.S. economy and will provide new opportunities for U.S. pork products.

The National Chicken Council (NCC) stated: “The TPP represents a significant opportunity to expand U.S. chicken exports and bring increased economic benefits to chicken farmers and companies across the country.”

The National Corn Growers Assocation (NCGA) said past free-trade agreements have positively impacted America’s farmers and ranchers, and it is hopeful that TPP will have similar results.