WOOSTER, Ohio — The president and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, said a newly reached trade agreement with Asia-Pacific nations will open the U.S. economy to better trade deals in a growing part of the world — that currently represents about 40 percent of the global economy.
According to Vilsack, the Trans-Pacific Partnership reached an agreement among 12 nations Oct. 5, which includes greater market access for U.S. farmers and manufacturers, while assuring basic environmental and labor standards are met.
“This is the largest multilateral trade agreement of its kind,” said Vilsack, moments after meeting with President Obama, on Tuesday.
The same countries also represent about 40 percent of U.S. ag exports, Vilsack said. The agreement would eliminate about 18,000 different taxes or tariffs, including Japanese tariffs that are limiting exports of U.S. beef and pork.
“Virtually every commodity group will see tariff eliminations or reductions,” said Vilsack.
Knocking down barriers
Obama, in a released statement, said the deal will knock down barriers that are “preventing American businesses from selling” in some of the fastest growing parts of the world.
“We’re going to be able to sell more products, more services, American agriculture, American manufacturing — we’re going to be able to get those to markets, and American companies that produce here in the United States are not going to be disadvantaged, relative to these markets” Obama said.
Vilsack said the agreement will take about 30 days of legal and technical review, before it is made available to the public.
Key stakeholders and members of Congress will also be briefed on the deal, and eventually cast a vote on whether to approve or disapprove of the agreement.
In June, Congress granted the president something known as trade promotion authority, or fast-track, which allows the president to make final-deal offers with other nations on trade — with the understanding that those deals must either be voted up or down by Congress.
Trade promotion authority does not allow Congress to amend the deal — only approve or disapprove of it — an act that will presumably speed-up the negotiation process, and show a more committed United States.
But the deal is certain to be critiqued and scrutinized, leading up to a Congressional vote.
“This week marks an important step forward, but there’s going to be a long, healthy process of discussion and consultation and debate, before this ever comes to an actual vote,” the president said.
On the one hand — the president acted on the trade authority Congress gave him — to settle about five years of negotiations on the TPP, but each member of Congress will need to weigh the benefits, against the consequences.
Critics say the deal will cost U.S. jobs, and that it does not do enough to prevent currency manipulation.
“Gains that may have been made in the agreement to ensure fairness and equity in trade, for America’s family farmers and ranchers, are likely to be lost due to currency manipulation,” said National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson.
His Ohio counterpart, Joe Logan, who is president of Ohio Farmers Union, compared the deal to an act of insanity.
“Insanity has often been defined as — doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result,” Logan said. “Our chronically high trade deficits clamor for a different result but the TPP retains many of the critical deficiencies that led to these deficits.”
But many other farm organizations, including American Farm Bureau Federation, and commodity organizations, praised the deal as promising.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership has promised to open restricted markets for American business around the Pacific Rim,” said Bob Stallman, president of The American Farm Bureau Federation. “(AFBF) looks forward to reviewing the details of the agreement reached today to guarantee it fulfills that promise for the nation’s farmers and ranchers.”
The National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, and the National Association of Wheat Growers all spoke favorably of the deal.
“We are hopeful that this agreement continues the tradition of past free trade agreements, which have had a positive impact for America’s farmers and ranchers,” according to NCGA. “In the coming weeks, we will carefully examine the agreement to determine whether it is in the best interests of America’s corn farmers.
The livestock and dairy sectors also spoke favorably — adding the will need to give close consideration once the details are made public — but that the deal is on the right track.
“While the full details of the partnership will not be released until the president presents it to Congress, cattle producers are assured this is a true 21st century agreement,” said Philip Ellis, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and a cattle producer. “The TPP will immediately reduce tariffs and level the playing field for U.S. beef exports to these growing markets.
The National Milk Producers Federation has not taken a position on the deal, saying it will need to review the full details — but the dairy organization praised members of congress for helping to make sure dairy market access was part of the negotiation.
The countries involved in the agreement, in addition to the U.S., are Canada, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Chile, Brunei, Singapore and New Zealand.
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