Push for TPP remains uphill battle

Farm groups continue calling for lame-duck vote in Congress on TPP as trade is crucial for U.S. agriculture sectors.

With both presidential candidates saying they don’t support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as it stands, those in the agriculture industry continue to make a push for passage of the trade deal during the lame-duck session of Congress after the elections.

The Obama Administration is pushing for congressional approval of TPP, but its prospects on Capitol Hill are dim. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) has repeatedly 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.

Groups aren’t giving up, however.

This week, the American Soybean Assn. (ASA) and the National Oilseed Processors Assn. (NOPA) have put together a new document with detailed infographics showing the ways TPP benefits soybean farmers and processors as well as the exporters that take U.S. soybeans to markets around the world.

“The TPP has huge potential benefits for soybean farmers,” ASA president and Greenwood, Del., farmer Richard Wilkins said. “First, we achieve better market access for soybeans and soy products in 11 partner nations. More impactful, though, we will increase sales of soybean meal for animal feed as a result of a dramatic increase in the sale of poultry, pork, beef, dairy and eggs to TPP markets. There is too much promise in the TPP for us to give up.”

NOPA president Tom Hammer added that his group “strongly supports" TPP because the Asia-Pacific region — comprising almost 40% of global gross domestic product (GDP) — "is where the future growth markets will be for U.S. soybean farmers, processors and exporters, as well as domestic meat and poultry producers, which are our industry’s largest customers. Unfortunately, the benefits of a TPP that has the potential to become the largest U.S. regional trade agreement in history cannot be realized if it is not approved by the United States Congress.”

Together, the organizations are confident that this new document depicting the strong benefits to soybean farmers, processors and exporters will help provide some weight to the ongoing national debate on the positive trade value of TPP.

“We’ve heard repeatedly from lawmakers that what they need to not only support the agreement but also to help grow that support is hard data on the benefits of TPP for their constituents,” Wilkins said. “This document does exactly that.”

In a recent op-ed for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., Rep. Darin LaHood (R., Ill.) said he supports TPP. “We can't afford to sit on the sidelines and let other countries unilaterally write the rules of the game," LaHood added.

"It's no coincidence that the American Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Federation of Independent Business and even President (Barack) Obama all support TPP and trade with Cuba,” LaHood said.

In a recent interview, North Carolina farmer and U.S. Grains Council board member Darren Armstrong discussed the importance of increasing demand through favorable trade policies. “The best place for demand is access to some markets we don’t have right now. Overseas export markets are a great place to look. That’s one thing we need to keep in mind: to keep pressing for favorable trade policy and to try and grow our demand so it can keep pace with the large crops we are growing," he said.

“TPP really is a great opportunity to access some places that we might not be able to get to now and is an important part of our export program," Armstrong added.

Time is of the essence. “The longer it takes to implement a program, it’s that much longer we are not in a market, and that gives a competitor of ours the opportunity and time to get in those markets ahead of us,” Armstrong explained.

In a joint press conference Thursday 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 the U.S. Congress to approve the TPP agreement. The two countries are part of TPP, whose 12 nations have a combined 800 million consumers and represent more than 40% of the world’s GDP.

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.”

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong added that he hopes the U.S. will ratify TPP soon and told reporters that it’s important for the U.S. to stay engaged in the Asia Pacific “on a broad range of areas.”

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