Trade hearing forum for promoting TPP

A House Ways and Means Subcommittee hearing Tuesday titled Expanding U.S. Agriculture Trade and Eliminating Barriers to U.S. Exports served a forum for promoting congressional passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement and for conclusion of the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Dave Reichert, R-Wash., subcommittee chairman, said the TPP holds “great promise. It would eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs and quotas for agricultural exports to the fastest growing region in the world. I am particularly pleased that TPP would establish enforceable, ‘WTO-plus’ obligations to ensure that SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary] measures are not used as hidden protectionism, while not diminishing in any way the ability of the United States to guarantee the safety of imported food. TPP’s provisions on biotechnology and preventing the abuse of geographical indications are also important.”

He continued, “Canada simply cannot go back on its commitments in TPP and NAFTA and limit imports of U.S. dairy products through protectionist regulatory changes, as it is proposing. Likewise, the administration must also work with the other TPP countries, as well as Congress and stakeholders, to develop plans as to how those countries will comply with TPP’s obligations on SPS measures and other agriculture-related areas. This will be essential to getting congressional support for the agreement, in addition to resolving other outstanding issues.”

Reichert also said the T-TIP “holds a lot of promise for agriculture exports, but it must be a comprehensive, high-standards agreement. That means knocking down the EU’s 30 percent average agricultural tariff and forcing the EU to remove its countless non-tariff barriers on U.S. agricultural products. The fact that the United States has a significant agriculture trade deficit with the EU but a large agriculture trade surplus with the rest of the world shows that the burden lies with the EU to open up its market.”

National Pork Producers Council President John Weber, an Iowan, said that “the TPP has become the de facto global trade vehicle, with other countries in the region already asking to join it, and would set the new international trade rules and the bar for future trade agreements, including the deal now being negotiated between the United States and the European Union – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.”

Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap, representing the American Farm Bureau Federation, also testified in favor of TPP and T-TIP.

“American producers will see significant reductions in trade barriers if the TPP is approved,” Paap said, according to his prepared testimony. “Japan, for instance, has agreed to slash tariffs on U.S. beef from 38.5 percent to 9 percent over 16 years. Canada will also open its market to more U.S. agricultural products by reducing restrictions on dairy, poultry and eggs from the U.S. Under the agreement, American dairy producers will gain access to 3.25 percent of the Canadian dairy market over five years. Canada will also allow imports of duty-free U.S. eggs up to 2.3 percent of domestic production.”

Paap also said T-TIP might help stop anti-science sentiment in the European Union that blocks U.S. imports.

“The EU was once the largest destination for U.S. agricultural exports,” Paap said. “Today, it has fallen to our fifth-largest export market. Tariff and regulatory barriers have become a significant impediment to increased exports. These negotiations must result in a modern, science- and risk-based approach to food safety, based on international standards, which can truly settle disputes.”

–The Hagstrom Report