Campaigning to Congress | TSLN.com

Campaigning to Congress

Negotiators on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement completed their pact Oct. 4

In a sign he and his administration will campaign hard to convince Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement announced Monday, President Barack Obama went to the Agriculture Department this week to promote the agreement to a small group of agricultural and business executives.

Immediately after the meeting, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack held a telephone news conference with reporters from around the country in which he said USDA's role in the campaign to get Congress to pass TPP will be to inform people in agriculture of the agreement's benefits.

"The Trans-Pacific Partnership took five years to negotiate, and I wanted to get the best possible deal done for American workers and American businesses, and that is what we have achieved," Obama told the 19 business executives, which included three from agriculture: American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman, National Chicken Council President Mike Brown and Wine Institute President and CEO Bobby Koch.

“The history of trade agreements show that agriculture is a winner every time and this is no exception.” Tom Vilsack, U.S. agriculture secretary

Others present included Motion Picture Association of America President Chris Dodd, former Demcratic senator from Connecticut; Business Roundtable President John Engler, who is a former Republican governor of Michigan; National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons. (Full list of participants on p. A1.)

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The event was held in a conference room on the first floor of the Ag. Department Jamie Whitten headquarters building. Besides Vilsack, Trade Representative Michael Froman and Jeff Zients, director of the Nat'l Economic Council, represented the administration.

Obama did not break new ground with the White House's comments.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative released a fact sheet on the impact of a number of agricultural products.

In the telephone call to reporters after the event, Vilsack did provide a few details on the agreement, saying:

• "The history of trade agreements show that agriculture is a winner every time and this is no exception."

• Virtually every commodity group will see the elimination or reduction of tariffs, and the agreement also safeguards from dumping.

• The dairy section includes a provision for a discussion on countries considering adopting geographic indicators, and provides for a due process in which "overly broad indications" can be questioned before they can be enacted.

• Canada and Japan agreed to increased access for dairy products which should be a counterweight to the increased access for New Zealand to the U.S. dairy market over 10 years, but "not every single party gets everything they want" in an agreement.

• Part of the increased export sales in U.S. dairy products are expected to come from "innovative" U.S. dairy products, such as yogurt. This is based on what happened after the U.S.-Australian market did not provide a lot of increased access, but Australia turned out to be a better market than expected for U.S products.

• Iowa and North Carolina "need to know" that 65 percent of tariffs on pork will be reduced in 11 years, 80 percent in 16 years or less, and markets will be opened in Malaysia and Vietnam."

• For California, "a host of horticultural products" as well as tree nuts and fresh and processed vegetables will see tariffs eliminated.

• The carve-out on tobacco "is very, very narrowly drafted and crafted" and was included because "it is difficult for the United States to suggest we can have public health laws on the books and we don't respect others to have those laws on the books."

"From an ag perspective the bottom line is pretty clear here: we are going to sell more American agricultural products … to an expanding middle class," Vilsack concluded.

Some cattle groups have voiced opposition to the agreeement. "Our cattle industry witnessed the damage ill-conceived free trade agreements have wrought upon the U.S. sheep industry, shrinking it by more than half and relegating it to a residual supplier of lamb and mutton in our own domestic market. Adding New Zealand, already the second largest importer of lamb and mutton, to the list of countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market will ensure that our…sheep industry will continue to be offshored for years to come, if not forever. The sheep industry is the cattle industry's canary in the coal mine," said Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA.

–The Hagstrom Report, edited minimally

Invited participants

▪ Michael Brown, president, National Chicken Council

▪ Ron Busby, president and CEO, U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce

▪ Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director, U.S. Conference of Mayors

▪ Former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., chairman and CEO, Motion Picture Association of America

▪ Roger Dow, president and CEO, U.S. Travel Association

▪ John Engler, president, Business Roundtable and former governor of Michigan

▪ Victoria Espinel, CEO, The Software Alliance

▪ Dean Garfield, president and CEO, Information Technology Industry Council

▪ R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

▪ Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta

▪ Bobby Koch, president and CEO, The Wine Institute

▪ Tom Linebarger, chairman and CEO, Cummins Inc.

▪ Todd McCracken, president, National Small Business Association

▪ Chance Mitchell, co-founder and CEO, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

▪ Linda Moore, CEO, TechNet

▪ Arne Sorenson, president and CEO, Marriott International, Inc.

▪ Bob Stallman, president, American Farm Bureau

▪ Sach Takayasu, president and CEO, Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship

▪ Jay Timmons, president and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers

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