Ag Sec. Vilsack Talks TPP

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President Obama and Ag Sec. Vilsack in meeting with ag leaders. USDA photo by Bob Nichols

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discusses how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) provides a more level playing field in trade for American farmers. U.S. exports of agricultural products to TPP countries totaled $63 billion in 2014, 42 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports. Thanks to this agreement and its removal of unfair trade barriers, American agricultural exports to the region will expand even further.

The agreement would eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs on agriculture products and deter non-science based sanitary and phytosanitary barriers that have put American agriculture at a disadvantage in TPP countries in the past.

Prior to today’s comments, Secretary Vilsack had a meeting at USDA with agriculture and business leaders to discuss the benefits of the TPP. President Obama also attended this meeting.

Vilsack on TPP

Below you will find President Obama’s remarks following the meeting with agriculture and business leaders on TPP:


Office of the Press Secretary
October 6, 2015


Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, yesterday we announced a new trade agreement across the Asia Pacific region that reflects American values and gives our working families and American businesses a fair shot, creates a level playing field. The Trans-Pacific Partnership took five years to negotiate, and I wanted to get the best possible deal done for American workers and American businesses, and that is what we have achieved.

This agreement makes us more competitive by eliminating about 18,000 taxes, tariffs that are placed on America’s products in these other countries. Just to give you a couple examples, Japan puts a 38-percent tax on American beef before it ever reaches market. Malaysia currently puts a 30-percent tax on American auto parts. Vietnam puts a tax of as much as 70 percent on every car American automakers sell in Vietnam.

Under this agreement, all those foreign taxes will fall. Most of them will fall to zero. So we are knocking down barriers that are currently preventing American businesses from selling in these countries and are preventing American workers from benefiting from those sales to the fastest-growing, most dynamic region in the world.

This agreement opens up new markets for goods that are made in America. Last year, we exported more than $2 trillion worth of goods and services, which supported about 11.7 million American jobs. That’s the fifth straight year that we had set an export record. But when 95 percent of the world’s markets are outside of our borders, we’ve got to do even better than that, particularly at a time when our economy is actually doing better than a lot of other countries and they want to sell stuff here. We’ve got to make sure that we’re able to sell stuff over there.

With this trade agreement, which spans nearly 40 percent of the global economy, we’re going to be able to sell more products, more services, American agriculture, American manufacturing — we’re going to be able to get those to markets, and American companies that produce here in the United States are not going to be disadvantaged relative to these markets.

Keep in mind that when there are high barriers in these countries, oftentimes that’s when a lot of American companies feel compelled — if we want to reach those markets, we’ve got to go produce over there. If the tariffs are down, if the taxes are down on goods made in America, that means U.S. companies that are investing here are able to sell over there without a disadvantage. That’s what American leadership looks like in the 21st century. That’s why this agreement also sets high standards for one of the fastest-growing regions of the world.

This agreement has the strongest labor standards of any trade agreement in history, including setting fair hours, prohibiting child labor, prohibiting forced labor. It includes the highest environmental standards in history, and prevents overfishing, and makes sure that wildlife trafficking isn’t decimating wildlife that are a world treasure.

And so unlike past agreements, these standards — high standards around labor and environment — are actually enforceable. If countries aren’t abiding by them, then they don’t get the benefits of selling to the United States under the terms of this agreement. And, under this agreement, we, rather than countries like China, are writing the rules for the global economy.

So I’ve said repeatedly that I would only sign an agreement and present an agreement to Congress if I could be absolutely certain that it was good for American workers and good for American businesses, good for American farmers and good for American ranchers, and good for American manufacturers. We have met that standard in this agreement.

So this week marks an important step forward, but there’s going to be a long, healthy process of discussion and consultation and debate before this ever comes to an actual vote. And we committed properly that we would post this agreement, every crossed t and dotted i, on a website so that everybody is going to be able to look at it. We are going to be talking not just to members of Congress, but the American public and various constituencies, and governors, and mayors who are represented here about why this is good for their communities.

And so we’re going to have months before this actually comes up for a vote. People are going to have plenty of time to go over it. I suspect that there will be some misinformation that is propagated around this, as there usually is in these debates. But I’m also confident that the case to be made for why this is good for America is sufficiently strong; that ultimately we’re going to get this done, and it will be an enormous achievement for us to be able to make sure that 40 percent of the world’s economy is operating under rules that don’t hurt us, but instead help make sure that American workers and American businesses are getting a fair shot, and that made in America, those products and services can be sold in places where there’s going to be significant demand.

So I want to thank everybody around this table. This is a diverse constituency. A lot of different groups are represented here. We want to thank all of them for their work in getting us to this point, and now helping us get across the finish line.

Thank you very much, everybody.
Read more on our coverage of TPP.