Ag groups were generally pleased that negotiators on the Trans-Pacific Partnership had returned a final trade agreement, though many focused on reserving judgement until all details are clear.
The agreement, between the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, was announced early Monday after a week-long meeting in Atlanta, Ga.
According to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, the agreement "provides a more level playing field" that will eliminate or reduce tariffs on U.S. ag products and deter sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to trade.
Vilsack said countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently account for up to 40% of all U.S. agricultural exports, totaling $63 billion.
"Thanks to this agreement and its removal of unfair trade barriers, American agricultural exports to the region will expand even further, particularly exports of meat, poultry, dairy, fruits, vegetables, grains, oilseeds, cotton and processed products," he said in a released statement.
Many key ag groups, including the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association and National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said they welcomed the final agreement and would put it under a microscope in coming weeks.
"The United States Trade Representative has promised a high-standard, comprehensive, and meaningful trade agreement. When the full text of the agreement is released, we will review it to ensure this is the case," noted NCGA President Chip Bowling.
Though the agreement has been reached among negotiators, it still has to pass Congressional muster. "Secret" details of the agreement have been a festering concern for lawmakers, an issue that was a significant hurdle to passage of Trade Promotion Authority – a provision that allows only an up or down vote on the agreement in Congress, but was expected to ease deal-making among TPP negotiators – earlier this year.
"We have long discussed the potential benefits of TPP for all of American agriculture," House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said. "That being said, I have repeatedly expressed concerns to our negotiators about the lack of progress in several key areas that, if not adequately addressed, would make passage of this agreement incredibly difficult in the House."
Specific concerns, Conaway said, are lack of market access for rice and dairy and concern about a new carve-out proposal for tobacco. On the other hand, he concedes that products like beef and pork, will see significant gains.
"It will take a coalition of many to move TPP over the coming months. At this time, I am skeptical that these concerns were sufficiently addressed but will remain open-minded, and I look forward to studying the agreement," Conaway said.
A summary of the TPP agreement's 30 chapters can be found on the U.S. Trade Representative website.