By MATTHEW D. ERNST
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman last week joined 11 other trade ministers in Auckland, New Zealand, to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.
The 12 nations signing the agreement comprise about 40 percent of global gross domestic product, more than 800 million people and around one-third of world trade. “Our goal is to enhance shared prosperity, create jobs and promote sustainable economic development for all of our nations,” said the ministers, in a joint statement.
The signing starts a two-year timeframe for each country’s legislature to consider and debate the TPP before giving final approval. “Signing is simply a technical step in the process, allowing the TPP text to be tabled in Parliament for consideration and debate before any final decision is made,” said Chrystia Freeland, Canada minister of international trade, in a Jan. 26 letter to the Canadian people. “All other countries will follow the same process, and each has up to two years to consider ratification before making a final determination.”
Election-year politics are dimming the prospect of Congress approving TPP this year. Still, many agricultural interests are urging its passage. “Congress should vote to approve TPP,” said Gina Tumbarello, American Feed Industry Assoc. director of international policy and trade, after the signing.
The TPP was negotiated over more than five years by trade ministers from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam.
American Soybean Assoc. President Richard Wilkins said Malaysia and Vietnam offer more soy market potential. “As their buying power increases, so does the market for American meat, which in turn drives demand for soy meal here at home.
“We hope that House and Senate leadership will move quickly on the Trans-Pacific Partnership so that farmers across the country can see these benefits as soon as possible,” said Wilkins.
The National Farmers Union continued its criticism of the agreement. “TPP is modeled after the failed deals of the past, and it is destined to fail,” said Roger Johnson, president.
During testimony to the U.S. International Trade Commission in January, Johnson claimed TPP potentially raises the U.S. agricultural trade deficit, fails to address currency manipulation concerns and could result in more foreign beef being imported, potentially putting downward pressure on U.S. cattle prices.