It’s been more than eight months since 12 countries reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and more than four months since the participating nations officially signed the agreement during a ceremony in New Zealand.

Once negotiators from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, signed the agreement, it was up to the governments of each participating nation to ratify TPP.

To date, TPP remains on the back burner amid election-year politics in the United States, which is concerning to those in the pork, poultry and other agricultural sectors.

But, clearly, it shouldn’t be on the back burner as the agreement will add millions of dollars to the U.S. farm economy annually. Nick Giordano, vice president and counsel -- global government affairs, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), addressed worries about Congressional inaction on TPP during a June 9 press conference at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa.

Other countries looking to U.S. to lead

According to reports, Malaysia has already ratified the TPP agreement, but other countries have not been very active in the ratification process. Giordano said that is because other countries have their eyes on the United States.

“As is often to the case, people are looking to the United States for leadership. And if we don’t act, it’s going to be a blow to our leadership,” said Giordano. “I don’t want to minimize the role that all these countries played in the negotiation, but I think it’s pretty clear the United States is driving the bus, so what are we going to do now? Park the bus on the side of the road and throw the keys out the window? The world isn’t going to stand still.”

While Giordano believes that other countries are looking to lead, action from Japan could offer U.S. Congress more motivation to act. He said that it appeared Japanese leaders were going to begin discussions to ratify TPP, but those discussions have been postponed until around September or October.

TPP action could come during lame-duck session

Because of the harsh partisan divide in the U.S. Congress, there is a good possibility that TPP won’t be taken up until the lame-duck session begins in November. But if delayed much longer than that, TPP could very well be rejected by the other participating nations and become nothing more than a small footnote in history books.

The NPPC and other major agriculture organizations in the U.S. are advocating its ratification in a timely manner. In fact, NPPC was joined by the National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation, National Renderers Association, USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, U.S. Meat Export Federation, The Poultry Federation, Alabama Poultry & Egg Association, California Poultry Federation, Georgia Poultry Federation, Mississippi Poultry Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Kentucky Poultry Federation, Michigan Pork Producers Association, Minnesota Pork Producers Association, Nebraska Pork Producers Association, North Carolina Pork Council, North Carolina Poultry Federation, Ohio Pork Producers Council, Northwest Chicken Council, Virginia Pork Council, Virginia Poultry Federation and the North American Meat Institute, with all groups urging Congressional leaders to ratify TPP.

What happens if Congress doesn’t ratify TPP soon?

“We have a lot of skin in the game,” Giordano said of the U.S. agriculture industry. “The window is closing, we are very concerned. We want to see TPP passed by the Congress this year.”

“There’s a fabulous offensive agenda here for us, for others in U.S. agriculture, and across the board for the United States economy. But if Congress doesn’t act, and we’re hopeful they will act in the lame duck (session), then boy, are we going to playing defense.

Giordano noted that the EU is negotiating with the Asia-Pacific region. He also pointed out that the Canadian pork industry has already said if the U.S. does not move forward on TPP before the end of the year, it, along with other Canadian industries, will be pushing their government hard to negotiate a free-trade agreement with Japan.

“The world is not going to stand still and wait for the United States,” he said.