Exporters Worry about TPP Withdrawal

Published online: Jan 27, 2017
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U.S. farmers are wondering how growers who export their products to Asia—particularly growers in the Pacific Northwest—will be affected by the decision of president Donald Trump to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). 

The Washington and Oregon Potato Growers Convention, held January 24-26, featured many speakers, including one D.C. insider who shed light on what it might mean for the potato industry moving forward, according to NBC news.

John Keeling, executive vice president and CEO of The National Potato Council (NPC), told the attendees at the Washington-Oregon Potato Conference earlier this week that the effect of the TPP will be felt in the future rather than the present. He added that there were aspects of the partnership that would have helped the potato industry, specifically when exporting to countries like Vietnam and Japan, where he says fast food chains like McDonald’s and KFC are constantly growing, which increases demand for potatoes.

Keeling says the TPP would have reduced tariffs in participating countries from 10 to 12 percent down to zero over five years. He adds it probably wouldn’t have passed in Congress anyway, but the fact that other countries are reducing their tariffs and the U.S. isn’t puts potato growers at a disadvantage as they try to export their products across the Pacific.

Keeling told the crowd he can see the value in President Trump wanting to negotiate with countries individually, but in the meantime the uncertainty is worrying because the industry relies so much on exporting to other countries.

Not all the speakers have a similar opinion. Jay Lehr, science director at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, says potato trade won’t be affected by the TPP.

“The TPP is like Obamacare,” said Lehr. “It’s thousands of pages kept in a locked room and members of Congress are not allowed to take notes when they read it.

Lehr added that potato trade has to be easy. 
“I’ll buy your stuff and won’t put a tariff on it if you buy my stuff and won’t put a tariff on it,” Lehr said. “It’s that simple. You don’t need a thousand pages.” 
Lehr was serious in his admonition to potato growers that they needed to be their own best promoters. “You have to dedicate a couple of hours each month telling your story to every non-farmer you meet,” he said.

 

Source: Potato Business