CONGRESS returns to Washington, D.C., for the week of Nov. 14 and for two more weeks in December, but the question with any lame-duck session is how much ambition and political rushing will happen post-election.
Agricultural groups are still hoping for a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The groups have been vocal in recent months about their desire to see a vote on TPP in the lame-duck session.
Dave Salmonsen, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) senior director of congressional relations, said in his discussions with people on Capitol Hill, everyone has heard from agriculture on the support for TPP.
"As an ag community, we know the importance of this," Salmonsen said, citing, as evidence, AFBF's finding that TPP could offer an estimated $4.4 billion-per-year boost in agricultural income, with a particular benefit to the meat industry.
Those in agriculture know the importance of trade, and in these times of declining prices, it can bring an opportunity for growth and increased demand.
"Passing TPP is an action the government can take that will benefit agriculture now without the expenditure of any government money," Salmonsen said.
However, he acknowledged that the political headwinds are "very tough."
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) repeatedly has said TPP won't come up during a lame-duck session unless the Obama Administration makes additional concessions that would get the votes the deal needs to pass. These are related to how to handle patent protections for biological drugs.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has referred to the politics surrounding the multination treaty as "toxic," given that both presidential contenders oppose TPP as finalized, and most congressional Democrats have demonized the White House effort as doing too little to protect the environment and the U.S. workers who will be affected by the treaty.
It appears that the U.S. may be left in the dust if TPP fails, the American Dairy Coalition warned. Eleven other members of the Asia-Pacific deal have made arrangements to boost trade as an alternative to TPP, but none of these plans involve the U.S.
The coalition said according to sources, delegates from the other countries are very willing to work with the U.S., which has been a crucial part of the construction of the global trading system. There is very little confidence that lawmakers will advance TPP before the end of 2016, and the U.S. has made no other alternative plans involving the other countries at this time.
In a joint press conference recently in Canberra, Australia, the prime ministers of Australia and Singapore urged the U.S. to stay engaged in the Asia-Pacific region and called on Congress to approve the TPP agreement.
Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said for Congress to ratify the TPP agreement "would be of enormous importance to the region and ... a profoundly strategically important commitment."
China is leading talks on the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which includes seven of the TPP countries.
Additionally, Australia and Japan finalized a trade pact in early 2015. That deal is already costing the U.S. beef cattle industry more than $400,000 a day in lost sales to Japan, which now is getting more beef from Australia.
Ambassadors from Mexico, Singapore and Vietnam, during a recent event hosted by the National Foreign Trade Council, stressed the need for the U.S. Congress to vote on the deal.
Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Singapore's ambassador to the U.S., said his country hopes that TPP will be ratified, and he ruled out chances for an alternative agreement between Singapore and the U.S.
"There is, for the U.S., no plan B; there is, for us, no plan B with the U.S. in it," Mirpuri said. "We need to have a U.S. player to go in the Asia-Pacific region. All the 11 ambassadors here from TPP countries, all our leaders, see this as fundamentally important."
Agricultural groups continue to make their case.
"A vote on this landscape-changing deal cannot wait until next year, particularly given the anti-trade rhetoric coming from the two major-party presidential candidates. It's now or never," a letter from National Pork Producers Council president John Weber said.