We’re still waiting for those better trade deals

It’s fair to ask what happens next in negotiating new trade agreements, and when will it happen?

Published on August 10, 2017 8:23AM

Last changed on August 10, 2017 3:29PM

President Donald Trump has promised better trade agreements, but when that will happen is still up in the air.

Associated Press File

President Donald Trump has promised better trade agreements, but when that will happen is still up in the air.

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Our colleagues at Politico this week published an analysis that showed our 11 former partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership are involved in 27 separate negotiations with each other, with major international trading blocs and regional powerhouses such as China.

It reports that seven deals that impact U.S. farmers have been signed since the Trump administration pulled the United States out of TPP.

The TPP was seen by many, but not all, U.S. agricultural groups as a boon. It included the U.S. and 11 other countries — Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Vietnam, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam. Japan, Mexico and Canada are among the biggest trade partners for U.S. agriculture.

Negotiations on the pact began in 2008 under President George W. Bush. A deal was reached in October of 2015.

President Obama supported the final deal and submitted it to Congress for ratification. With an election looming, Republicans and Democrats in Congress weren’t anxious to be pinned down on a deal that had both support and opposition that crossed party lines.

The pact’s critics included the Republican and the Democrat presidential nominees.

Donald Trump said the deal would undermine the U.S. economy.

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton raved about the deal, calling it the “gold standard” of trade pacts. Candidate Clinton opposed the deal during the campaign and vowed to oppose it as president.

So without ratification prior to the election, the U.S. was destined to reject TPP in its present form.

Following through on his campaign promise, President Trump withdrew from the accord on Jan. 23.

Among the other parties in the pact there are differing opinions as to what TPP means without the United States. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, says the deal is meaningless without the U.S.

Nevertheless, our trading partners around the Pacific Rim aren’t wasting time. There are a host of bilateral and multilateral discussions in the works. China, Trump’s campaign nemesis, is trying to make deals with our trading partners.

Throughout the campaign, and since taking office, Trump said he’d replace the 12-party pact with a series of bilateral trade deals that would bring jobs and industry back to the United States. That sounds great. When can we expect that to happen?

Farmers and ranchers, a group that largely supported Trump’s election, have a lot riding on foreign trade. The U.S. exports $135 billion in agricultural products each year. It could always be better, but it’s pretty great as it is.

It’s hard to say what dumping TPP and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement may mean for the economy in general, and for farmers and ranchers in particular.

But at the moment it’s fair to ask what happens next, and when will it happen? We await a tweet, or any other appropriate communication, from the Oval Office.


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