Ag weighs in on trade bill

Ag weighs in on trade bill

Inclusion of rules on SPS measures and geographical indicators welcomed by those in agricultural sectors.

THE U.S. is actively pursuing an ambitious set of trade negotiations, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership with Europe, which both hold the potential to be game changers for U.S. agriculture.

An important piece of being able to negotiate a deal that meets the nation's desired outcome is to provide the executive branch and Congress the standards laid out in the Trade Priorities Act of 2014 (TPA-2014) introduced by Sens. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) and Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.).

The bill includes several key negotiating objectives, such as a reduction or elimination of tariffs, robust rules on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and preventing the improper use of geographical indications, all of which make it easier and less costly for U.S. agricultural companies to compete globally.

A joint statement from the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and U.S. Dairy Export Coalition welcomed these provisions included in TPA-2014. The bill provides a specific negotiating focus on goods subject to U.S. tariff rate quotas, as is the case for most dairy products.

"This legislation recognizes the importance of clearly identifying the goals and priorities that are most vital to the successful negotiation of balanced trade agreements," NMPF president and chief executive officer Jim Mulhern said.

Jared Hill, legislative director at the National Grain & Feed Assn., said his group "is hopeful that this next generation of trade agreements will strengthen current protocols on SPS measures, including inclusion of a rapid-response mechanism for challenging and quickly resolving non-science-based SPS barriers to trade."

TPP addresses new and emerging trade issues such as the elimination of many non-tariff trade barriers, i.e., incompatible biotech and food and feed sanitation regulations.

While U.S. exports to the Asia Pacific region have grown, the share of U.S. trade in the region has declined relative to other countries, many of which have bilateral or regional free trade agreements that give their exporters an advantage over U.S. competitors.

Although the U.S. already has bilateral agreements with six of the 12 TPP partners, TPP is a means to level the playing field for U.S. exporters, the American Feed Industry Assn. (AFIA) said in a statement.

AFIA added that without congressional extension of trade promotion authority, the nation's current negotiating power is limited.

"The future growth of the U.S. feed industry lies in exports, whether it be directly or indirectly through meat and dairy exports, and the feed industry needs the support of the Administration to remove barriers to trade and enforce trade rules," Gina Tumbarello, AFIA manager of international trade, said. "The most opportunistic path for this is through free trade agreements such as (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership with the European Union."

TPP could also benefit trade relations with Japan, one of the trade partners under TPP. Most animal feed already enters Japan duty free, but Japan's barriers to U.S. livestock exports are much more restrictive. Removing such barriers under the TPP agreement would offer opportunities to expand U.S. exports of meat and dairy products to Japan.

The U.S. would ultimately export more feed to Japan in the form of value-added products such as meats and dairy products, and those sales would benefit the U.S. feed, livestock and poultry industries and their customers.

Equally as important in facilitating final passage of the Asia Pacific and EU deals, the National Chicken Council said TPA-2014 also would strengthen the hand of U.S. negotiators to break down trade barriers to U.S. chicken at the international trade bargaining table.

"Passing TPA would also demonstrate more strongly to the international trade community that the United States is most serious in continuing to be the world leader to building trade, increasing economic activity and providing for more workers to benefit from the hard-fought agreements," chicken council president Mike Brown said.

However, the National Farmers Union (NFU) is opposed to the bill because it removes congressional oversight of trade deals.

"It is imperative for our negotiators to focus on the huge U.S. trade deficit," NFU president Roger Johnson said. "Just increasing exports while increasing imports at even faster rates is a recipe for continued and even larger trade deficits, which have a negative effect on U.S. growth, jobs and our standard of living."

Volume:86 Issue:03

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