The United States is officially out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as most expected would happen. So now what? California Farm Bureau Federation President (CFBF) Paul Wenger said work needs to start on building individual relationships with countries, and it’s up to farmers to remind the new administration how important agricultural trade is.
President Trump officially withdrew the United States from TPP, like he said he would do during his campaign. The new administration has mentioned several times that it will look to bilateral agreements to fill the trade void. Wenger said those relationships need to start soon.
“We’re not sure what China will or will not do, if they will try and fill that void. I do know for some of the Pacific Rim countries, to see what China is doing by trying to increase their presence out in the South China Sea, has some of our other trading partners maybe a little concerned,” Wenger said. “I think it’s important that the Trump administration have their representatives reach out to our largest trade partner there, and that would be Japan.”
Wenger added that he isn’t certain that pulling out of the TPP means that another deal with several countries isn’t possible. “We’re not sure that maybe the TPP doesn’t come back in some other form or fashion. The agreements as they were, they pulled out of that. But it could be that they go back and look at some other multinational type of trade agreement,” he said. “Clearly (Trump) is a businessman, and I think he understands that we are in a world economy and we just want to make sure we have a good, level playing field.”
President Trump owns a vineyard in Virginia and uses an H-2A program to find labor, so he is invested in the industry. Wenger said he has done a few things that lead him to believe the president knows the importance of agriculture. “I think he is very open. He was in the Central Valley. His secretary of agriculture comes from the same state American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall does,” Wenger said. “We’re hoping he has some recognition. He did call one of our American Farm Bureau board meetings that we made available to both campaigns. Donald Trump called himself, and talked with us for a while.”
Wenger added that it is important for the industry to remind the president how important agriculture trade is. “It’s up to us to make the case to him,” he said. “We’re going to continue to make the outreach, and as we see the cabinet getting in there, whoever the U.S. trade representative will be, we’ll be making those contacts with the Trump administration and make it clear how important it is.”