Congress needs to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement as soon as possible so the U.S. feed, poultry and pork sectors can enjoy the benefits of the reduced and eliminated tariffs promised by the agreement, said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Vincent “Zippy” Duvall.
The two agriculture leaders took part in a media call on February 23, after AFBF released its report of TPP and its expected impact on U.S. agriculture.
Representatives from the 12 countries participating in TPP negotiations – United States, Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – reached an agreement on October 5, 2015, and officially signed the deal on February 4. After that signing, it was up to the governmental bodies from each participating nation to approve the agreement.
The U.S. Congress has yet to do so, which has Vilsack and Duvall concerned.
“The delay is costing American farmers and ranchers,” Vilsack said. “If we delay a single year in the implementation and passage of this, we will be looking at a $94 billion hit to the economy as a whole which will obviously impact agriculture, but [also] every other sector.
Duvall notes that all agricultural sectors stand to gain from the approval of TPP.
“I think it will be a positive for all of the commodities across the board,” said Duvall. “If you look at what happens to corn, corn may not be increased in exports, but we’ll have a lot of increase in protein products in beef and pork and chicken. We’re going to have to feed those animals that corn we grow here in this country, so it will mean a boost to our grain farmers, too.”
Sense of urgency on TPP
Vilsack said another reason that the U.S. needs to approve its participation in TPP is that other trade agreements can still be made.
“We deal with bilateral trade agreements all the time, one-on-one,” he said.
If the U.S. fails to take care of its national agreement on TPP, Vilsack said, there is nothing to stop other countries from passing other trade agreements that will not be beneficial to the U.S.
Duvall said another reason he urgently requests Congress to approve TPP is because it will help the United States’ credibility when dealing with other countries on trade issues.
“America needs to take the lead,” he said. “We need to be a leader in the world in putting up these trade treaties and getting them approved, and get our credibility up in telling everyone if we agree to something, we’re going to come through and deliver it. The timeliness of it is critical to agriculture, becase every day that goes by, we fall farther and farther behind.”
Will TPP get approval from Congress?
Vilsack declined to say directly if or when he thought Congress would approve TPP, saying that the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader set the agendas.
He also adds that TPP has been opposed by members of Congress who are extreme liberals and extreme conservatives. It will be up to the centrists to get the bill approved, he said.
However, the recent approval of the Customs Trade Bill by strong majorities in both houses gives Vilsack encouragement.