U.S. Trade Representative Provides Updates on the 21st Century Trade Agreements

Posted by on February 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments »

In the past several decades, global agricultural trade has increased dramatically due to more efficient transportation and logistics systems and also due to growing purchasing power in developing countries and increasing demand for fiber, feed, fuels, and more protein-rich and high value foods. Trade agreements have facilitated this dramatic increase in regional and global trade.

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) estimates that in 2013 U.S. agricultural exports set a record $148 billion. U.S. agricultural exports support nearly 1 million farm level jobs and millions more jobs that are also part of the transport, logistics, and value added industries of food, fiber, feed and fuels derived from agriculture. Since 2009, U.S. agricultural exports have grown by 40% overall. The statistics illustrate the superior quality of U.S. agricultural products, and the ingenuity of the farmers and ranchers who produce them.

Michael Froman, United States Trade Representative

Michael Froman, United States Trade Representative

These are exciting times in agricultural trade overall, and on Thursday night, February 20, the United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Michael Froman, spoke at the annual USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum, held in Crystal City, Virginia.

At the Forum with an audience of close to 600 farmers, ranchers, food and agriculture industries, and USDA and other government agency staff, Ambassador Froman described the extensive work that has been done in the past several years to enhance global agricultural trade systems. The USTR strongly believes that trade has a role to play in enhancing economic growth and prosperity around the world, and supporting global food security. He made a clear case for open markets to ensure that agricultural products are able to move freely to countries where they are most in demand.

Ambassador Froman described a major goal of his upcoming negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to take place in Singapore in the coming days. Congress and the American public have high expectations for TPP in terms of the 21st-century opportunities and jobs it needs to deliver. With regard to market access issues for agriculture, work remains to be done to get meaningful results across the TPP region. Achieving an ambitious, comprehensive and high standard agreement is critical for creating jobs and promoting growth, providing opportunity for American workers and a level playing field for American businesses in the region. The USTR office will continue to work to open markets around the world while also encouraging greater acceptance of science based decision making and acceptance of new and safe technologies.

The Ambassador also discussed the need to move ahead with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations. On June 17, 2013 President Obama and EU leaders announced that the United States and the EU would launch negotiations on a comprehensive trade and investment agreement to strengthen a partnership that already supports $1 trillion in two-way trade. The first round of talks was held in July of last year, with a second round in October and a third in December. The agriculture negotiations will be challenging, particularly on market access, Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) issues and on technical barriers to trade.

Altogether, the TPP and the T-TIP agreements represent two-thirds of the global economy. These agreements will generate more jobs, more investment, and more opportunities for companies, both large and small, while maintaining the high public health, safety and environmental standards our citizens expect and deserve. The U.S. Congress needs to grant Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to the President to provide the most leverage possible in the negotiations.

GHI’s recently released Trade Policy Paper discusses many of these issues, as well as how trade agreements can benefit smallholder farmers in developing countries. Stay tuned for further TPP and T-TIP updates in the coming months on Harvest2050.

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