Growth Energy to support TPA
PHOENIX — Growth Energy, the organization of ethanol plant builders and operators, supports granting trade promotion authority to President Barack Obama so that the administration can complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and work on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis told The Hagstrom Report today.
Buis made the pledge as he stood at a news conference with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack after Vilsack made a strong pitch in a speech at Growth Energy’s Executive Leadership Forum here.
“We are for it. We haven’t taken a formal position,” Buis said.
Jeff Broin, founder and executive chairman of POET, an ethanol producer and the chairman of Growth Energy, said he agreed with Buis’s statement.
Vilsack said he believes that “anyone who benefits from exports should make sure we are setting the rules.”
In his speech, Vilsack had noted that if TPP is not finalized, China will fill the gap in trade leadership in Asia and will not be as concerned about labor and the environment or establishing a set of stable trading rules as the United States is. Vilsack pointed out that the slowness of China in approving a certain genetically modified corn seed had made it difficult to export dried distillers grain, an ethanol byproduct, to China.
Buis said later that Growth Energy had not taken a position on TPA previously because no one had asked about it.
He noted that ethanol exports have grown in recent years, but that the European Union puts a duty on ethanol. Vilsack said that the United States “needs the momentum” from a successful TPP before the government can focus on the T-TIP negotiations with the European Union.
Earlier, a Growth Energy attendee asked Darci Vetter, the U.S. chief agriculture negotiator, whether ethanol could be included in a World Trade Organization environmental goods agreement under negotiation.
Vetter said that in her view ethanol could qualify as an environmental good, but that including it in the environmental goods negotiations is complicated because that is a plurilateral agreement that does not include all countries. Brazil and other countries have tariffs on ethanol to which the United States does not want to agree.
In her speech, Vetter noted that U.S. ethanol exports already total $2 billion, and that exports of dried distillers grains, total $3 billion. She also said that the TPP would eliminate a 27.2 percent tariff on ethanol in Japan and a 40 percent tariff in Vietnam.
In his speech, Vilsack praised Growth Energy members for being ahead of their time in developing the ethanol industry, but he also pointed out that USDA has been very supportive of the industry. He also said that USDA is conducting a “literature review” of the biofuels industry that is likely to show that the debate over food versus fuel is false.
Noting that Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., had introduced a bill to end the Renewable Fuel Standard and cited the food versus fuel debate as a reason, Vilsack said, “it is simply not true” that ethanol is interfering with food production.
The argument, he said, “doesn’t take into consideration the enormous increase in productivity.
But Vilsack also said that since he was advocating for the industry, he would like to ask for some advocacy in return and made a pitch for support of TPA.
He also signaled that the campaign to convince Congress to pass TPA is an uphill battle.
Vilsack said a member of Congress told him Thursday that he had received 1,202 phone calls on TPA, and that only two had been supportive.
“What is the congressman supposed to conclude from that? “ Vilsack asked. “Folks back home are riled up and not hearing from the other side.”
Opponents of TPA are well organized, he said, and reaching out to their senators. If they prevail and Congress does not enact TPA, “it will be difficult to get TPP or have a conversation with the Europeans about biofuels export opportunities in the EU.”
–The Hagstrom Report
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