14 MAY 2010 - The primary and secondary sectors of the US agricultural industry are at odds with each other as to the effect a completed TPP would have on existing FTAs with TPP negotiating partners, according to Inside US Trade. It reports that a letter dated May 11 to the Obama Administration from twenty groups representing agricultural producers has requested that market access schedules and accompanying rules of origin in the US's current Free Trade Agreements with countries now negotiatiing to be part of the TPP (including Australia and Chile) go unchanged.
"That letter argues that agricultural provisions in the existing FTAs were carefully negotiated in order to secure approval in Congress. One source also pointed out that agricultural producers are eager to avoid any political difficulties that could arise if the TPP talks are used to “revisit” the provisions in previous FTAs, which are controversial in the U.S. Congress.
Producer sources also pointed out that existing FTAs have already reduced, or are in the process of reducing, agricultural tariffs down to low levels. Therefore, revisiting FTA market access schedules is more likely to result in backsliding on agricultural commitments from FTA partners, or in FTA partners making new demands on the U.S., these sources argued...."
However, sources in the processing sector have said that the letter smacks of 'protectionism', and have cited arguments for existing market access schedules to be revisited. For example, it has been argued that lowering the tariffs which have remained under previous FTAs will offer processors easier access to certain inputs, as well offering new market access gains in return for processing industries. They have warned that any limitation as to reopening past FTAs or the agriculural sector will limit opportunities for trade-offs and mean that other countries shut off those same sectors, limiting the scope of any negotiated deal.
"...In March 2 testimony before the International Trade Commission (ITC), Devry Boughner, director of international business relations for Cargill Incorporated (a multinational producer and marketer of food and agricultural products), signaled that her company would not favor such limitations by arguing that the TPP agreement must be comprehensive, including all products and all sectors in all TPP economies.
“The agreement must be bold, building on past FTAs, but not limiting ourselves to what was done in the past,” she argued. “For the U.S. food and agriculture sector to gain critical market access to TPP economies, TPP must liberalize trade for even the most sensitive agricultural products.”"
The USTR has privately said it wants to determine an internal position for how the TPP will interact with existing trade deals for the second round of negotiations in June.
Notably, the May 11 letter comes from a combination of organisational lobbies, some of which have favoured increased trade liberalisation in the past. The organisation that reportedly led the efforts, the American Farm Bureau Association, called for progress on bilateral FTAs on 3 May. This may indicate concern by US producers that the arrangements for agricultural market access in a TPP would be tougher.