As corn farmers look to increase demand in the face of abundant supply, the importance of Trade Promotion Authority to U.S. farmers has gained particular importance. By passing TPA, the President gains the necessary means for negotiating the trade agreements that facilitate access to important export markets and thus helps ensure American farmers remain competitive in meeting the world’s need for food, fuel and fiber.
A bill has yet to be introduced, but we expect legislation soon that would finalize this important trade component.
Simply, Trade Promotion Authority does three things. It allows Congress to give direction to the Executive Branch on trade policy priorities while providing negotiating objectives for trade agreements. It also establishes Congressional requirements for notifying and consulting stakeholders and the public before and during negotiations. Finally, TPA renews the president’s authority to submit trade agreements to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments, assuring our trading partners that a final agreement won’t be altered by Congress.
TPA has existed in its current form since 1974 but, at this time, has not been updated since it expired in 2007. Prior to 2007, every President since Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930’s has had authority from Congress to negotiate trade agreements.
American farmers should value the importance of passing Trade Promotion Authority for a variety of specific reasons but, most importantly, because it will facilitate trade agreements and open markets for U.S. corn.
Only by renewing TPA can the U.S. government conclude and pass new trade agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, that allow the U.S. agricultural sector to compete on a level playing field in the global market. As countries around the world are moving forward with agreements that will give their farmers preferential access to the world’s fastest growing markets, it is imperative the United States has the ability to negotiate similar agreements, for the benefit of American producers, in a nimble, agile fashion.
While approximately 260 preferential trade agreements worldwide exist today, only 20 involve the United States. Despite the superior efficiency of U.S. farmers, their competitive edge has been and, without TPA, will continue to be eroded by less-efficient competitors with preferential agreements.
Trade Promotion Authority provides a positive advantage in that it facilitates the negotiation of the most beneficial deals possible from our trading partners. From lowing tariffs, to addressing non-scientific sanitary and non-sanitary trade barriers, TPA defines negotiating parameters that other countries know they will have to meet in order for the agreement to be supported by Congress. Additionally, the voting procedure required by TPA allows our partners to put their best deals on the table with confidence that it will not be undone during an amendment process.
Finally, trade agreements yield positive results for American agriculture. With the seeds for trade planted by the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement approved by Congress in 2011, Colombia went from the 17th largest market for U.S. corn farmers to the 4th largest market in just one year. In 2014, the country bought 166 million bushels of U.S. corn worth about $900 million - an astounding five-fold increase from the 21 million bushels worth $180 million the country bought in 2011. The positive impact of this agreement continues to benefit farmers as, in the 2015 marketing year, U.S. corn farmers are projected to capture 95 percent of this 142 million bushel market.
With agricultural exports supporting more than one million U.S. jobs, both on and off the farm, while playing a key role in supporting the U.S. trade balance, the passage of TPA will increase the prosperity of Americans whether they live on or off the farm.