Trans-Pacific Partnership: Where does it go from here?

Posted on Aug 31, 2016

To say the proposed multi-national trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is controversial is an understatement of gigantic proportions.

The trade deal has been years in the making and would involve 12 countries in the Pacific realm. Supporters of the agreement, including the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) say the agreement will boost exports, along with the U.S economy and create job opportunities.

From an agricultural standpoint, an economic analysis conducted by AFBF notes TPP will tear down trade barriers, help level the playing field for U.S. agricultural exports to those member countries, and with ratification, will boost annual net farm income in the United States by $4.4 billion and exports by $5.3 billion dollars, compared to not approving the pact.

But ratification appears to be stalled by an election year that has seen its share of negativity toward the agreement from an abundance of opponents.  David Salmonsen, AFBF Senior Director, Congressional Relations said he thinks there is still support in Congress for the deal.

“I believe that there is support for TPP, especially among those in Congress that represent agriculture,” he said.  “Farm Bureau, and agriculture generally, along with the business community, is working to generate support for TPP so that Congressional leadership will put the TPP implementing bill to a vote this fall.”

But, Salmonsen added that leadership has indicated a vote may not come until after the November election for the agreement.

 “The agreement is done and it is very positive for U.S. agriculture, with increased market access for our products and improved standards and rules for trade in food and agriculture. A vote this year is what we are working towards,” he said. “Delay only helps our competitors, such as the European Union, which is now negotiating deals with our TPP partners, such as Japan.”

Salmonsen pointed out that the way the TPP is structured, it cannot go into force until the U.S. ratifies it, but that does not mean the participating countries are not able to conclude trade agreements with other countries without U.S. participation.

If indeed this is the case and the U.S. fails to act, he said it will not be seen as a favorable action by TPP partner countries that are looking to the U.S. for economic and strategic leadership.

AFBF President Zippy Duval said, in a recent teleconference, support of the TPP is a priority of the organization and will remain so.

“We know that it’s going to be an uphill battle but this is a priority issue of our Board and it is also important to our farmers and ranchers,” he said. “So we are going to continue to push forward because we think there is a small window of hope during the Lame Duck (session).”

Duvall also said it’s important for Farm Bureau members to remind their neighbors how important TPP is to agriculture.

“The farm economy is bad across this country and this is one thing this Congress could vote on and it wouldn’t cost our taxpayers one dollar,” he said.

Last January, during the AFBF National Convention, Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the

U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Darci Vetter held a press conference where she said 20 percent of farm income is related to exports so maintaining and expanding the opportunity to export U.S. agricultural products is critical to American agriculture’s bottom line.

From a state perspective, Kentucky Farm Bureau President Mark Haney said ratification of the agreement would have a positive effect on farmers across the Commonwealth no matter the size of their operation.

“Kentucky is home to 76,500 farms, comprised mainly of small family farms. But each one is important to the state’s economy and each one has a role to play in growing our export market,” he said. “TPP will mean added support to these operations big and small and in a time when net farm income has declined, a trade agreement of this magnitude is critical to the well-being of all of our farm families.”