Getting a vote this year on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement was the top issue on which pork producers from around the country lobbied their congressional lawmakers this week in Washington, D.C., during the biannual legislative fly-in of the National Pork Producers Council.
In addition to the TPP, more than 130 producers from 20 states Wednesday and Thursday urged their senators and representatives to include funding in the next farm bill for a foot and mouth disease vaccine bank and to oppose a USDA regulation — the so-called GIPSA rule — that would restrict the buying and selling of livestock.
“TPP, the FMD vaccine bank and the GIPSA rule are critically important issues for our industry,” says NPPC President John Weber, a pork producer from Dysart, Iowa. “But getting the TPP approved and implemented is the No. 1 pork industry priority.”
The TPP includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which combined have 800 million consumers and account for nearly 40% of global GDP.
“NPPC has been a strong, consistent supporter of free trade agreements,” Weber says. “On average the past 10 years, the United States has been the top global exporter of pork because of FTAs. In fact, we now ship more pork to the 20 U.S. FTA partner nations than to the rest of the world combined.
“But as good as the past FTAs have been, the TPP represents our biggest commercial opportunity ever,” says Weber. “This is a landscape-changing deal that will significantly affect the future of my family and pork-producing families throughout the country. The TPP will cause U.S. pork exports to increase exponentially, and we’ll see at least 10,000 new U.S. jobs created because of that increase.”
During their Capitol Hill visits, pork producers pointed out the significant negative financial impact that failing to pass the TPP will have on their bottom line. Sales and market share will be lost to competitor countries, such as the European Union, that are negotiating FTAs with the TPP nations.
“We cannot walk away from this deal,” Weber says. “Not only would we — and I mean the entire U.S. economy — lose the benefits of expanded exports to the fastest-growing region of the world, we would lose existing market share in the 11 TPP countries, and that would mean lost U.S. jobs. The impact on the American economy would be devastating.”
Additionally, Weber points out, the United States, which led the TPP negotiations, would lose credibility in the region.
“If the United States abandons this agreement, which country would want to expend energy negotiating with us on a future trade agreement?” Weber asks. “Never mind the serious economic damage we would inflict on ourselves, if Congress fails to pass the TPP, we signal to the world that geopolitically Asia is not important.”