Vilsack: TPP text available in next 30 days

Tom Vilsack

Farmers and members of Congress will be able to read the final text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the next 30 days, the head of the USDA says.

Lawyers are “scrubbing the text” of the trade deal between the United States and 11 other countries, making sure it is accurate and expresses the agreements reached by trade ambassadors, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during a conference call with reporters.

“I think the 30-day time period, in comparison with other deals, is fairly quick,” Vilsack said.

The process is faster this time, Vilsack said, because it was started months ago, knowing people would be interested in seeing the text as quickly as possible.

Also during the conference call, Vilsack said:

• TPP eliminates or reduces tariffs or taxes assessed by other countries on U.S. agricultural products, including beef, pork, poultry, dairy, horticulture, rice, grains, soybeans, wheat, cotton and processed products.

“The bottom line is, virtually every commodity group will see tariff eliminations and/or reductions, and/or expanded preferential access for American agricultural products,” Vilsack said.

• The agreement includes safeguards to protect U.S. markets from other countries essentially dumping product into the country.

• TPP gives the United States an additional opportunity to contest sanitary and phytosanitary standards that are not based on risk or science, Vilsack said.

• For biotechnology, TPP member countries will use science-based determinations, promote greater transparency in regulatory process and “engage in discussions about appropriate levels of low-level presence,” Vilsack said.

• The United States will see expanded access for dairy products into Canada and Japan in the next decade, Vilsack said, particularly for cheese, whole milk powder, skim milk powder, food milk and expansion of yogurt sales.

• Beef producers will see 74 percent of Japanese tariffs or tax lines on beef eliminated or cut over 16 years. Pork producers will see 65 percent of Japanese tariffs on pork eliminated in 11 years or less, and 80 percent in 16 years or less. Pork producers will see increased access to Malaysia and Vietnam, where all tariffs will be reduced and eliminated.

• The TPP reduces tariffs and taxes on more than 18,000 U.S. products. “Since America is a place where our tariffs on agricultural products are already extremely low, the fact that we’re seeing historic reductions by these other countries should indicate this is a winner for agriculture,” Vilsack said.

• “It is important for folks to recognize that not any single party to a trade agreement gets everything they want, that it is give and take,” Vilsack said.

Under TPP, the United States opened its dairy market to New Zealand at the same time markets opened for U.S. products in Canada and Japan, he said.

“The goal here was, over the next 10 years or more, to make sure that there was not a disproportionate opening of our market without a disproportionate opportunity to access markets that have been closed in the past,” he said. “When you take a look at all the different products involved and the gains and losses within each product, and the innovation and new product opportunities that exist ... on balance, I think we’re going to be OK.”

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