President Trump Rejects TPP Despite a Potential Windfall for Ag
President Donald Trump, after only a few days in office, signed his maiden executive order to remove the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, otherwise known as TPP. The move stops U.S. participation in its tracks before the paperwork ever made its way to Congress and has some farmer groups crying foul amid billions of dollars lost and a seemingly weakened U.S. competitive position throughout Southeast Asia.
TPP was originally comprised of a dozen nations, and former President Obama was the architect behind U.S. participation. The trade deal was designed to eliminate some 18,000 tariffs on imports and domestic products exported overseas, the latter of which would have reportedly bolstered the U.S.’ competitive trade position in the Pacific Rim.
As part of the deal, the United States “negotiated labor, environmental, and intellectual property protections” desired by major businesses, as per CNN, but that according to critics of the deal – chiefly President Trump – would have hurt the American worker.
Agriculture trade has been a key issue for the Trump administration, given the president’s controversial comments on the inroads made with new potential trade partners such as Cuba. Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain recently told GAI News that Sonny Perdue, President Trump’s pick for the next Secretary of Agriculture, is “very positive on trade.”
Meanwhile TPP countries reportedly purchase 40 percent-plus of U.S. agriculture exports, which according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture are valued at $63 billion. In fact, some farmer groups suggest TPP would have ushered in as much as $4.4 billion annually to the agriculture industry, according to data cited in MarketWatch, which given the current market conditions of lower farmer incomes, persistently low commodity prices, and over supply would provide desperately needed relief to farmers.
In addition, TPP would have reportedly bolstered the United States’ competitive position in the region, including with China, which incidentally is not a member of the TPP. NPR cited sources who suggested the trade agreement would have “[prevented] China from setting global trade rules in its own interest.” Meanwhile President Trump has been a harsh critic of the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs to China and has “threatened to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports,” according to Reuters, in response to which China has reportedly vowed retaliation for any trade war.
NPR last spring spotlighted Midwestern cattle farmer Mike John who favored the trade deal, which he deemed “important for commodities” and “specifically for beef,” pointing to rising demand stemming from the Asian markets. “In particular, the grain-fed U.S. beef is highly prized in places where that beef demand is growing,” the Huntsville, Missouri-based farmer told NPR.
Meanwhile President Trump’s decision shouldn’t come as too much of a shock given that he opposed the “multi-lateral” trade deal in his presidential campaign. Instead he favors “bilateral” trade agreements, which as CNBC reported, are much tougher deals to negotiate. For some an alternative solution couldn’t come too soon.
“It is critical that the new administration begin work immediately to do all it can to develop new markets for U.S. agricultural goods,” Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president, told MarketWatch.”
Those who supported TPP, however, such as Ron Kirk, a U.S. trade representative under the Obama administration, have suggested that without the trade deal the United States is weakened on economics, prestige and leadership throughout Southeast Asia.
“This is going to be devastating for American farmers and ranchers and businesses because we’re now going to be campaigning against other countries who are going to reduce [18,000] tariffs. Those tariffs will now stay in place for the United States,” Kirk told CNBC.
Other TPP countries include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.