October 6, 2015


Newly forged Pacific Rim trade deal hailed, rejected in US


The ambitious trade deal reached Monday among 12 Pacific Rim countries was met with mixed reactions in the US, which led the negotiations toward its successful conclusion in marathon sessions in Atlanta, Georgia.


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hailed the agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), saying it would provide a more level playing field in trade for American farmers. "The agreement would eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs on our products and deter non-science based sanitary and phytosanitary barriers that have put American agriculture at a disadvantage in TPP countries in the past", he said in a statement.


The signatories to the agreement include, besides the US, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which all account for 40% of the global economic output.


Visack noted that despite past barriers, countries in the TPP currently account for up to 42% of all US 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".


The trade pact, however, faces rough sailing in the US Congress, where many of President Barack Obama's co-members in the Democratic Party have expressed objections to the TPP as it would allegedly cost millions of American jobs due to foreign competition.


'Fate uncertain'


Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, said TPP's "fate in Congress is at best uncertain". Congress is expected to vote on the trade pact next year.


Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingbell said Monday she was disappointed that "it appears that currency manipulation has not been adequately addressed within the TPP agreement".


Ahead of the TPP negotiations in the US, 160 Congress members wrote Obama urging the inclusion of measures to stop countries from manipulating their currencies in order to give their exports price advantage.


The US National Farmers Union president, Roger Johnson, said Monday that since the TPP did not address currency manipulation, which he described as "one of the chief tools used by our trade competitors to ensure the playing field is never fair", NFU "will continue to vigorously to oppose this agreement and urge Congress to reject this deal as well".


However, Visack warned: "Failing to grasp this opportunity would be a mistake: worse than just losing out on potential gains, our producers would fall behind other countries that are negotiating their own preferential arrangements in TPP countries".-Rick Alberto

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