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The Ag Agenda

August 2007

TPA: It’s Time to Stop Playing Politics and Play Ball


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

An important date just came and went that will affect our nation’s economy, as well as the way the U.S. will be viewed in the world marketplace. Unfortunately, most people outside of Washington didn’t have a clue, even though it concerns their livelihoods.

On July 1, Congress allowed Trade Promotion Authority to expire, leaving in its wake a national trade agenda in flux and many people asking, “What now?” Because of politics as usual, the U.S. just lost one of our best trade tools for opening world markets and keeping pace with our international competitors.

“You’re Out!”

Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, is a mechanism that allows the U.S. president to negotiate trade agreements with other countries, to which Congress can then give an up or down vote. With TPA expired, other countries understandably will be far less likely to enter into serious negotiations with the U.S. because it’s not that easy negotiating with Congress.

Our current situation pretty much puts the U.S. in the bleacher seats. Because even though our ability to expand into foreign markets has basically come to a halt, our competitors are still going strong. We have ejected our own team from the game.

Farmers, ranchers and many other businesses are holding the short end of the stick. Without the ability to sell our products overseas, we are losing opportunities to export billions of dollars in agricultural products.

Back to the Mound

Now that World Trade Organization talks have stalled, the U.S. especially needs TPA so that we can continue with bilateral and regional trade agreements.

Agriculture gained roughly $4.5 billion from recent trade deals negotiated under TPA. While we also need a solid WTO agreement, recent proposals don’t even come close in market access to the gains agriculture has received under TPA-negotiated free trade agreements.

Good trade deals don’t just happen. There is a lot of strategy, negotiation, time and effort that goes into coming to an agreement that will remove trade barriers and open markets to allow U.S. exports. Trade is not easy, but with the right tools, such as TPA, it is doable.

The American Farm Bureau will continue to push for another TPA. There’s never been a better time in history to continue expanding our markets worldwide. It’s time we got back in the game.