IN defending the newly minted Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "In all trade agreements negotiated, it's important for folks to recognize that not any single party gets everything."
Negotiations require a give and take, and now is the time that the deal as a whole must be examined to see whether it's a win or lose for agriculture. Vilsack contends that the agriculture industry is, without a doubt, a winner in this agreement, but some will benefit more than others.
Final details are being prepared, but the process moving forward will be for agricultural groups to look at whether the TPP agreement provides enough benefits as a whole to lobby Congress for approval.
Kent Bacus, National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. associate director of legislative affairs, said he hopes agriculture will be supportive of the final TPP deal. "This is a vast improvement over the status quo. To delay any further consideration of this bill or stand in the way of it would be a great detriment to U.S. agriculture," Bacus said.
Some key leaders in Congress already have been less than positive about the deal. In the days before the final TPP deal was reached, 16 House Agriculture Committee members sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative expressing concern about the lack of market access for rice and dairy and the tobacco carve-out.
After the deal was announced, committee chairman Rep. Michael Conaway (R., Texas) wasn't convinced that those concerns were heard.
"While I am encouraged to hear that U.S. livestock products such as beef and pork will see significant gains in market access, it will take a coalition of many to move TPP over the coming months," he said. "At this time, I am skeptical that these concerns were sufficiently addressed but will remain open-minded."
Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), a staunch supporter of trade, gave a floor speech two days after the deal was publicized questioning, among other things, whether the market access for agriculture falls short.
"I'm worried that we didn't get as good a deal as we could have, and ultimately, I'm worried that there won't be enough support in Congress for this agreement and that our country will end up missing out on important opportunities," Hatch said.
The final TPP text will be made public after 30 days and available for public viewing after 60 days; then, the President and Congress have 90 days to ratify the agreement once it is submitted.