John Nalivka: TPP – A problem with transparency
August 24, 2016
The lack of transparency from Washington, D.C. has reached a tipping point – at least with me. I didn't just come to this realization and in fact it was a conclusion I reached long ago having often cited federal lands grazing as an example. However, a much broader topic and one that affects most Americans is TPP or the Trans Pacific Partnership.
I have always been a strong advocate of free trade and as such I have supported U.S. trade agreements. Obviously, most of my support rests on the impact on the U.S. livestock, poultry, and meat industries. Expanding our global exports of meat and poultry products increases the value of U.S. production to both producers and processors. At the same time, I have also been an advocate of the other side of the trade equation – imports. Trade cannot be defined as simply exporting more while at the same time importing less. It involves both sides of a complex equation and negotiations should work toward a solution that generally has both parties walking away and satisfied with the outcome. Think buying a car! You are the buyer (importer) and the dealership represented by the salesman is the exporter. At the same time, if you have a trade-in, you are now the salesman or exporter and the dealership is the importer. You work toward an acceptable price on both accounts and hidden agendas regarding either side of the negotiation pretty much complicate arriving at an acceptable deal.
Now, this is where TPP has rubbed me the wrong way – lack of transparency about what this huge trade deal between 12 countries entails and who are the winners and losers. While multi-lateral (multi country) trade negotiations have become the norm, one has to wonder how you can ever arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. So, a died-in-the-wool believer in TPP might say of course we arrived at a satisfactory conclusion. We have a signed agreement. I don't necessarily know that signed and satisfactory are equivalent.
Certainly, the U.S. meat industry and specifically, beef, is a winner. The agreement reduces tariffs for U.S. beef imports into Japan. Japan is the primary global buyer of U.S. beef. In 2015, U.S. beef exports to Japan represented 28 percent of total U.S. beef export with sales valued at $552.5 million or 21 percent of the $2.7 billion total U.S. beef export sales last year. Through June of this year, U.S. beef exports to Japan are up 9 percent from the prior year. There is no doubt that an agreement to expand that export opportunity through a new trade agreement would be valuable to the U.S. beef industry.
But, the question must be asked, what else is in this 5,000 page trade agreement? Do we need cumbersome multilateral agreements to achieve free trade that is also transparent and fair trade? The words "trust me" and Obamacare come to mind. Sorry, but I'm not very trusting.