fb - voice of agriculture


March 2015

Time to Move Ag Trade Forward with TPA


Bob Stallman
President
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

U.S. agriculture exported more than $152 billion in products last year alone, and there’s room for more growth yet. With Trade Promotion Authority expected to take center stage on the legislative agenda this spring, farmers and ranchers are ready for trade agreements that create business and boost the American economy.

TPA legislation isn’t new, but now is prime time for renewal. It first passed in 1974 and has been critical to the success of important agreements for U.S. agriculture with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. We’re now ready to expand our markets even further with ambitious trade negotiations across the globe from Asia to Europe. But we need to stand firm and show other countries that we’re ready to act on final offers at the negotiating table. TPA creates an important partnership between the administration and Congress to move trade agreements forward.

The U.S. economy loses out when trade agreements are crushed in the final hour by deal-killing amendments. We weaken our standing in the global marketplace, and hand economic leadership over to other countries. With TPA, the administration represents our best interests before other countries without flying solo in negotiations. Congress and the administration must continue to shape and set priorities based on what they’re hearing directly from American businesses.

This is where agriculture can continue to take a leading role in shaping our trade agenda. Farmers and ranchers know the challenges we face in other markets, and it’s our job to get this message to policymakers. When we’re all on the same page in negotiations, the process moves swiftly as Congress can act on final agreements with a straight up or down vote.

Limiting access to American food just doesn’t make sense. Farmers and ranchers are ready to bring their goods to new markets, but high tariffs and non-scientific barriers place our exports at a disadvantage. Take the EU, for example. Last year the U.S. exported $12.7 billion in agricultural products to the EU, but we also imported $18.7 billion in agricultural products from the EU. These numbers don’t mean we had less to sell: Our markets are simply more open while the EU continues to let politics rather than science dictate its trade restrictions. Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, our trade with Japan is just a fraction of what it could be, largely because of price restrictions and high tariffs.

American businesses rely on trade agreements to break down barriers and create a more balanced marketplace for all. But we must come to negotiations with a clear agenda and the authority to back it up. The U.S. is on the verge of completing one of our most ambitious trade agendas in decades. TPA is essential to completing these agreements, including the Trans Pacific Partnership with 11 other countries across the Asia/Pacific region and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the EU.

TPA expired too long ago: Congress and the administration need to work together to renew it before valuable trade relationships are spoiled.