Agricultural Community Offers Advice on TPP Trade Deal

May 19, 2010

WASHINGTON (May 19, 2010)—The agricultural community gave valuable advice to the Obama Administration last week as it looks to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a wide-ranging trade deal has become a focus of the White House and would encompass a variety of farm commodities.

In a letter to Ambassador Siddiqui, the Chief Agricultural Negotiator, and Under Secretary Jim Miller of the USDA, 20 major commodity groups—including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the USA Rice Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, and the American Soybean Association—urged the Administration to not reopen trade agreements with countries that would also be part of the TPP.

“The FTAs with Australia, Chile, Peru and Singapore were very carefully negotiated in order to gain the support of U.S. agriculture and to secure Congressional approval,” the group wrote. “The agricultural market access packages and the country-specific rules of origin that underpin them should not be reopened in the TPP.”

The letter also recommended that the TPP focus on sanitary and phytosanitary and issues and non-tariff measures that hamper U.S. exports to countries included in the agreement, as “their resolution of the is critical to increasing U.S. agricultural exports.”

Full text of the letter is below:

May 11, 2010

Ambassador Islam Siddiqui
Chief Agricultural Negotiator
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20508
Under Secretary Jim Miller
Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Ambassador Siddiqui and Under Secretary Miller:

The U.S. agricultural community is pleased that the administration’s agriculture trade leadership team is now in place. Strong leadership is particularly critical as the U.S. commences negotiations on the potentially far-reaching Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). Although commodity-specific interests vary on a number of issues given the size and scope of the agreement, with the current list of partners participating in the negotiations the agricultural community is united on two important elements.

First, we must maintain the integrity of the existing Free Trade Agreement’s (FTA) agricultural market access and rules of origin packages. The FTAs with Australia, Chile, Peru and Singapore were very carefully negotiated in order to gain the support of U.S. agriculture and to secure Congressional approval. The agricultural market access packages and the country-specific rules of origin that underpin them should not be reopened in the TPP. Given other U.S. interests related to the agreements with existing FTA partners, the U.S. agricultural community strongly believes that reopening the agricultural market access and rules of origin provisions in the current FTAs is more likely to result in an overall negative outcome for the agriculture sector. Because of the strong opposition of U.S. agriculture to changes in agricultural market access and rules of origin, we urge USTR and USDA to work together to ensure these provisions are not reopened.

The second important component is an early and strong focus on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues and non-tariff measures (NTM) that hamper U.S. agricultural exports to TPP countries. This must include cross-cutting issues common to all TPP countries, as well as challenging bilateral SPS and NTM issues that are impeding our access to these markets. In the case of FTAs with countries where the vast majority of tariff reductions have already been negotiated or agricultural tariffs are extremely low, the heart of the discussion must focus on these SPS and NTM problems in order to generate new export flows. Although trading partners that employ such barriers even after implementing FTAs (e.g. Australia’s SPS regime) may object to a strong focus on these issues, their resolution is critical to increasing U.S. agricultural exports.

We appreciate your leadership and commitment and look forward to working with you on these important TPP issues.

Sincerely,

American Farm Bureau Federation
American Feed Industry Association
American Soybean Association
American Sugar Alliance
Biotechnology Industry Organization
California Cling Peach Board
National Association of Wheat Growers
National Barley Growers Association
National Corn Growers Association
National Milk Producers Federation
National Pork Producers Council
National Renderers Association
National Sorghum Producers
North American Millers’ Association
Northwest Horticultural Council
USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council
USA Rice Federation
U.S. Dairy Export Council
USA Poultry & Egg Export Council
U.S. Wheat Associates, Inc.