Doha Dead But Trade Lives On Through TPP Talks

Agricultural groups continue to call for competitive agreement that does not allow for ag industry to be sacrificial lamb.

"It pains me to say it, but multilateral negotiations in Geneva are about dead, so where is trade liberalization happening? The most important thing out there is TPP," said Nick Giordano about the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks.

Giordano, vice president and counsel for international affairs at the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), noted that TPP is especially important, particularly now that World Trade Organization multilateral talks are on life support.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) ministers recently wrapped up meetings in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam for the 19th round of talks. The goal is to conclude talks before the end of the year for a comprehensive trade agreement that can be "game-changing" for the United States, according to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

The regional trade talks include the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The United States views the TPP as an important component of a robust trade strategy designed to open markets for American exports. Froman said TPP brings together advanced and emerging economies that make up a third of global trade and 40% of global GDP.

In a speech before the Japan National Press Club Aug. 19, Froman said the rules and norms established within any multilateral agreement "must be more than lofty ideals or appealing catchwords if they are to increase peace and prosperity. They must be embedded in the actions of nations.

“That is why the Trans-Pacific Partnership is so critical," Froman noted. "TPP will reinforce the shared determination of Japan, the United States, and other TPP countries to create a high-standard, comprehensive, job-supporting agreement that addresses 21st century trade issues and introduces new disciplines into the global trading system. It will result in an open and transparent regional economic order that can serve as a roadmap for free, open, and transparent markets across the Asia-Pacific."

More than 30 farm and food organizations this week in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Froman communicated to its “core” principles for a final, successful TPP trade agreement. Specifically TPP must include all sectors, address sanitary-phytosanitary (SPS) issues and tariffs and be enforceable.

Individual issues are already proving to test the ability for that to be accomplished.

Giordano said that Japan has already declared seven products including pork are off the table and they're unwilling to liberalize trade in that area.

"The pork industry and American agriculture and food industry don't want to be traded off for another segment such as apparel or footwear," Giordano said. "We want tariffs on our products to go to zero, because that's what a free trade agreement is about."

He recognized that agriculture always has sensitivities, but he does see a path to the end zone and a good outcome broadly speaking for agriculture.

There are small rumblings in the House to limit approval of Trade Promotion Authority to the president which allows Congress to only do an up or down vote on trade deals. Giordano doesn't know how aggressively the Administration will push for TPA, although Froman has repeatedly said it is desired and would benefit advancements of the U.S. trade agenda.

When questioned about the importance of TPA following the TPP meetings, Froman said, "TPA is an important tool. There is work going on in Congress in relevant committees on TPA. And we are engaged in that process."

Giordano contended that if the Administration brings home a strong TPP agreement, it will pass Congress, with or without TPA. "The process in Geneva is in paralysis and I do not see that changing. [TPP] will become a platform for future global trade liberalization."

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