Sign on the dotted line

by Erica Shaffer
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WASHINGTON – The US Senate voted 60-38 in favor of the Trade Promotion Authority bill, also known as the “fast-track” trade bill. The House passed TPA last week by a 218-208 vote. The bill now goes to the White House for approval.

The bill allows the President to send trade agreements to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments. The vote comes as the US negotiates Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). If approved, TPP would expand markets for US products in Pacific Rim countries while strengthening the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

The Senate also passed by voice vote a bill that would extend a program that helps workers displaced because of trade agreements. The Senate will vote on the aid bill next week. The House is expected to pass the bill.

US poultry interests have advocated for passage of the bill. The National Chicken Council said TPA will ensure the industry has access to foreign markets.

“NCC applauds the Senate for action and we look forward to the president signing TPA into law, NCC President Mike Brown said. “Our negotiators now have better tools to speak as a unified voice and to make sure the interests of US chicken producers are on the table and considered in any trade package moving forward.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) said the industry has seen tremendous value in beef exports. In 2014, the industry exported more than $7.1 billion worth of US beef accounting for more than $350 in added value per head of cattle in the United States, according to NCBA.

“This value is not just from increased demand, but also from adding value to variety meats that have very limited value here at home, NCBA President Philip Ellis said. “As the demand for US beef continues to grow around the world, the future success of the beef industry rests in our ability to meet foreign demand without inference of tariff and non-tariff trade barriers. With TPA passed, the US can focus on finalizing trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will give us greater access to consumers throughout the Pacific Rim.”

Pork producers also have benefited from free trade agreements. The US shipped more than $6.6 billion of pork to foreign markets in 2004, according to the National Pork Producers Council. Since 1989, US pork exports have increased 1,550 percent in value and 1,268 percent in volume.

“US trade negotiators now have the leverage they need to close the TPP negotiations,” NPPC President Dr. Ron Prestage said. “The US pork industry needs TPP to continue growing our exports.”
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