Nearly one-third of the US House urged the White House to pursue a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement without countries that prove unwilling to fully open their markets to all US agricultural products.
The TPP is a regional negotiation that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP.
In a letter sent to President Obama, 140 members of the House, led by Ways and Means trade subcommittee chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., indicated that congressional support for the TPP would be jeopardized if US negotiators accept anything less than elimination of all trade barriers to US agricultural goods. They pointed to Japan's current offer, demanding special treatment for its agricultural sector, including exemption from tariff elimination for certain "sensitive" products, including pork. (Click here to read the letter.)
"If accepted," the lawmakers said in the letter, "this unprecedented and objectionable offer would significantly limit access for US farmers and ranchers to the Japanese market and, most likely, to other TPP countries as well."
They also said that accepting such a deal – as well as a less-than-ambitious offer from Canada – would set a "damaging" precedent for, and compromise, US negotiations with future TPP members and on future free trade agreements, including one with the European Union.
The TPP was envisioned as a high-standard, 21st century trade agreement, so Japan and Canada must be held to the same high standards as other TPP partners, said the House members. "We owe our farmers and ranchers the best deal possible," they concluded.
The National Pork Producers Council, which has taken a similar position on Japan's recalcitrance on tariff elimination, welcomed the congressional show of support for US agriculture.
"US pork producers are grateful that chairman Nunes, Ranking Member Rangel and many other House members are looking out for America's farmers and ranchers," said NPPC president Dr. Howard Hill, a veterinarian and hog farmer from Cambridge, Iowa. "It's very important that Japan and other countries know that the US Congress isn't going to agree to a trade deal that would leave on the negotiating table billions of dollars in U.S. sales and tens of thousands of US jobs.
"NPPC will not support the TPP unless the Gate Price in Japan is eliminated and all tariffs on pork in Japan and the other TPP nations are abolished," Hill added.
Japan is the fourth largest market for US agriculture, which shipped $12.1 billion of products to the island nation in 2013; Canada is the second largest export destination for US agricultural goods, importing $21.3 billion worth in 2013.
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