Farm Bureau and most other agricultural groups are working hard this year in persuading Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. There’s a good reason for that.
With commodity prices hurting and farm income slumping, the proposed 11-nation pact is projected to boost U.S. farm income by $4.4 billion per year, according to recent analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). Here in Iowa, the TPP is projected to boost crop and livestock by more than $632 million per year.
The TPP will tear down entrenched trade barriers, level the playing field and give the United States unprecedented access to fast-growing Asian markets.
Yet, despite those encouraging projections, getting Congress to approve the TPP deal this year will likely be a heavy lift. And the current tenor of the presidential campaign is only making it harder.
Bashing free trade agreements has become a favorite tactic these days for the presidential candidates. Nearly all of the remaining contenders in the race, including front runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, slam the TPP every chance they get. Despite the fact that trade has helped U.S. workers, consumers and the economy in general, the candidates’ erroneous criticism has caught hold.
The apparent success of trade-bashing rhetoric is certainly being noticed by lawmakers in Congress. You can bet that many are going to be shy about supporting the TPP when the presidential candidates appear to win votes by running down trade deals.
The campaign rhetoric is also being noticed around the world. After listening to candidates talk against trade, our export competitors are likely chomping at the bit to nab a piece, or maybe a whole lot, of our export markets by negotiating bilateral trade deals to give their farmers the upper hand in the market.
Trade deals, it seems, are always difficult in Congress. But they can be completed. After a hard lobbying battle last year, farmers and other trade proponents were able to win Congressional approval of Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, which binds Congress to an up or down vote on trade deals.
Yes, it’s going to take a lot of work to get the TPP approved. But, as we all know, farmers are certainly very accustomed to hard work and heavy lifting.