Mont. farm group urges speedy trade agreements
January 9, 2014
The American Farm Bureau Federation today welcomed the introduction of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation in Congress. Farm Bureau believes TPA is the catalyst needed to advance U.S. proposals to reduce tariffs and improve market access for farmers and ranchers in trade negotiations.
The legislation was introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Ranking Member Orin Hatch (R-Utah) and House Ways and Means Committee Chair David Camp (R-Mich.).
"This trade negotiation authority is needed now," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "For negotiations to keep moving forward on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) discussions, we need the TPA authority in place. We urge Congress to pass the bill without delay and show that the United States is committed to completing these trade negotiations."
Montana Farm Bureau President Bob Hanson explained that TPA legislation, and in turn the TPP and the TTIP, is especially important to Montana. "Montana exports 60 percent of our agricultural products and 80 percent of our grain," he said. "The TPP will be beneficial to Montana because it makes us more and more competitive internationally, and I'd say our biggest player in this is Japan. Many people don't realize, but these trade agreements will remove the trade barriers that exist with our closest—and top two—trade partners, Mexico and Canada. This will allow our products to move more smoothly across these international lines."
The TPA legislation will restore the president's authority to negotiate trade deals that Congress can pass or reject but cannot amend. Without it, other countries are reluctant to finalize negotiations with the United States for fear that any hard-won trade agreement could be undone through amendments in Congress.
"We want to thank Senator Baucus for bringing this legislation forward," noted Hanson. "Senator Baucus has long championed trade, especially of agricultural products, and understands the many benefits to Montana to have TPA and other trade negotiations pass."
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"The U.S. market is one of the most open in the world, yet our farmers and ranchers face high tariffs and other noncompetitive practices when they try to export their products," said Stallman. "For U.S. agriculture to thrive, we have to correct these disparities and level the playing field. The current TPP and TTIP negotiations are our best chance to expand our trade opportunities, and only with TPA can we succeed in these negotiations."
U.S. agriculture is heavily dependent on exports. On average, one out of every three acres in the U.S. is planted for export. Further, farmers and ranchers earn 25 percent of their farm income from exports.
–Montana Farm Bureau