MANY agricultural groups saw June 29 as the end of a successful bipartisan effort and the beginning of better prospects for agricultural trade as President Barack Obama signed trade promotion authority (TPA) into law.
At the signing of the TPA bill and a companion bill to offer trade adjustment assistance, Obama called the passage a true bipartisan effort and said it acts as a "reminder of what can get done, even on the toughest issues, when working together in the spirit of compromise."
Obama noted that the authorization provided in the TPA bill does not cover actual trade agreements. "We still have some tough negotiations that are going to be taking place," he said.
Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) said although TPA passage is a major win for America, the work has just begun.
"As the United States continues to negotiate major trade agreements with Asia and Europe, Congress must carefully monitor these talks to ensure America's priorities are met and that we're able to close a high-standard trade deal that will fully benefit our workers and job creators and allow America's economic leadership to extend across the globe," Hatch said.
Those tough negotiations are going to require additional bipartisanship.
Agricultural exports support more than 1 million jobs, and every $1 in exports creates an additional $1.27 in business activity. With more than 95% of consumers living outside the U.S., the future of American agriculture depends on the ability to sell to foreign markets.
U.S. food and agricultural exports to the world reached an all-time high of more than $155 billion in 2014. Of that total, the U.S. exported more than $66 billion to countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and that figure would increase as a result of tariff elimination under a successful TPP deal, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.
U.S. agricultural exports face tariffs in excess of 700% on some products. In TPP, the U.S. is seeking elimination of tariffs and commercially meaningful market access for U.S. products exported to TPP countries.
The agriculture industry has always carried trade, and it also benefits by having support from members on both sides of the aisle.
Market access for U.S. farm goods in Japan as well as access to Canada's dairy and poultry markets have been top goals within TPP discussions.
Australia has called for greater U.S. sugar market access, although USTR Ambassador Michael Froman has said negotiators will not undermine the U.S. sugar program in a TPP deal.
U.S. Dairy Export Council president Tom Suber said TPA paves the way to press negotiating partners to make offers on the most sensitive issues that would bring about new and meaningful access.
"The U.S. needs all the tools it can muster to get acceptable terms from Japan and Canada that ensure the U.S. is able to secure expanded market access opportunities for all types of dairy products under TPP," Suber said.
Froman told an event organized by Politico that he hopes to bring a final TPP deal before Congress for approval by the end of the year. Negotiations could wrap up as soon as July. A ministerial meeting may occur during the last week of July that could close the TPP deal "in the near term," Reuters quoted a source as saying.