While some industries worry about the potential disadvantages of the remaining countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership proceeding without the U.S., R-CALF USA says President Donald Trump lived up to his campaign promises when he withdrew from the deal.
“It was the right thing to do when President Trump withdrew,” Bill Bullard, CEO of the organization, which represents cattle and sheep ranchers for domestic and international trade and marketing, told the Capital Press. “It’s the right thing for the United States to do today, and if other countries want to continue to negotiate to cede their sovereignty through this agreement, let them. But the United States should not be party to that.”
TPP was a global effort to create global supply chains in the cattle industry, Bullard said, allowing multi-national meatpackers to “seamlessly switch” from one country to another to source their cattle and beef.
Bullard said the U.S. should be strengthening a domestic cattle supply chain instead of pursuing a global supply chain. TPP did not recognize the U.S. beef produced exclusively in the country, allowed imported beef to bear the U.S. label and did not include safeguards for price or import surges that could hurt domestic prices.
TPP is an agreement with some of the world’s largest beef exporters, and represented more beef production than consumption, Bullard said.
“The United States was the most likely market where all of that excess beef was going to be targeted to,” he said.
R-CALF supports bilateral agreements with countries that represent important markets for the U.S., and not an additional supply source for the large meat packers. The U.S. is already “tremendously disadvantaged” between Canada and Mexico, Bullard said.
“They sell us 4 billion pounds worth of beef and we turn around and sell them 2 billion pounds of the same product, so that’s a terrible imbalance that needs to be corrected,” he said. “For that reason, we don’t think we should jump in and become even more disadvantaged under TPP.”
Bullard thinks claims that the U.S. will be harmed without TPP are a “smokescreen” to convince ranchers to stay the course and continue to support trade agreements that ultimately harm the industry by importing more than is exported.
About 10 to 11 percent of U.S. beef production is exported, and 18 percent of domestic beef supplies is imported, Bullard said.
“Unlike wheat, corn and cotton, that overproduce for the domestic market, we do not,” Bullard said. “Exports are not as important to our industry as they are to others. The most important market to the U.S. cattle industry is right here at home, because we don’t produce enough beef.”
Bullard believes the U.S. can reach a smarter deal by negotiating a price that benefits ranchers.
Trump is on the right track renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement and potentially renegotiating the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, he said.
“We think it’s about time to put America first, and these agreements certainly have not done that,” Bullard said.