While the fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in the United States awaits Congress’s return after the November elections to Washington, D.C., many of the other TPP partner countries already are making reforms to meet the trade deal’s standards, according to one Japanese government official. Kazumi Nishikawa, director of the Global Economic Policy Unit at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, this week at the East-West Center in Washington said Asian governments – including ones that aren’t now part of the deal – are getting ready to comply with the TPP concepts and guidelines. He said passing TPP this year is “critical” to ensuring that countries in the Asia-Pacific region won’t follow “less ambitious rules,” mentioning the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. That trade negotiation includes China and 15 other Asia-Pacific nations, including seven TPP countries. Also speaking about the TPP at the East-West Center – an institution established by Congress in 1960 to foster better relations and understanding among the people of the United States, Asia and the Pacific islands – was Krisda Piampongsant, senior adviser at the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade of Thailand, who said failing to conclude the deal would be a “disaster for everyone,” including Thailand, which would like to join the 12-nation agreement eventually. Matthew Matthews, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. State Department and ambassador for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, said the United States and Japan must “step up together, along with our partners in Asia, to shape a framework for world trade. Other TPP members are looking to the United States and to Japan to show leadership on TPP.” He added that other countries will “fill that void” if TPP is not ratified. NPPC strongly supports the TPP, which includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, the trade agreement would significantly increase U.S. pork exports to the Asia-Pacific region, creating more than 10,000 pork industry jobs. NPPC is urging congressional lawmakers to vote on the TPP this year. (Click here to watch a video on the importance of the TPP.)

No progress made on ractopamine issue during U.S.-Taiwan TIFA talks

The United States and Taiwan this week in Washington held their latest round of negotiations under their Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The talks covered a range of trade and investment issues, including Taiwan’s zero-tolerance policy for the presence of ractopamine in imported pork. The policy is in effect despite the fact that in August 2007 Taiwan notified the World Trade Organization that it was tentatively establishing a maximum residue level (MRL) for the feed additive. The MRL was based on studies by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the U.N.’s international food safety standard-setting body. (In 2012, the Codex Commission established an MRL for ractopamine, which U.S. pork producers easily meet.) Taiwan withdrew the WTO notification after intense pressure from its pork producers. The country’s ractopamine policy violates the WTO Sanitary-Phytosanitary Agreement, which requires that SPS measures be based on scientific evidence and that they only be applied to the extent necessary to protect human or animal health. U.S. exports of pork to Taiwan declined from a high of 31,500 metric tons in 2004 to just 18,739 metric tons last year. Dermot Hayes, an economist at Iowa State University, estimates that U.S. pork losses in the Taiwanese market because of the ractopamine issue could be as much as $150 million annually. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative expressed disappointment that during the latest TIFA talks no progress was made on the ractopamine issue. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has indicated her country will consider standards applied by other nations, including Japan and South Korea, which accept pork from hogs fed ractopamine.

Little headway made in latest TTIP talks

In the latest round of talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, held this week in New York City, the United States and the European Union made little progress, with U.S. negotiators even rejecting an EU request for three days of agriculture talks. NPPC supports the TTIP but is skeptical of progress being made on it based on the intransigence of the EU on various issues. The 28-country bloc is willing to eliminate tariffs on nearly all goods, for example, but it announced publicly it is unwilling to eliminate them on beef, poultry and pork. The EU has indicated it would allow some market access for “sensitive” products, including meat, if the United States accedes to the EU’s demands on reciprocal access and on protections for products labeled with geographical indications, such as Cognac, Roquefort cheese and Parma hams. NPPC wants in the TTIP the same deal it has gotten in the 20 other free trade agreements the United States has concluded and in the recently finalized Trans-Pacific Partnership: elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers on U.S. pork exports. The future of the TTIP now is more uncertain. Last month, EU trade ministers expressed doubts about getting the trade deal completed before the end of the Obama administration (Jan. 20), and several called for a pause in negotiations. No talks are scheduled beyond October.

Colombia voters reject peace deal between government, rebels

Voters in Colombia last weekend rejected a referendum to end 52 years of war between government forces and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist–Leninist guerrilla movement formed during the Cold War period to promote agrarianism and anti-imperialism. The conflict is estimated to have claimed the lives of 220,000 and was an obstacle to U.S. approval of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which was concluded in 2006, approved by Colombia in 2007 but not passed by Congress until late 2011. The Colombian government, led by President Juan Manuel Santos, held four years of negotiations with FARC, reaching a cease fire in late June and a peace deal in late August. But voters rejected the referendum on the peace accord, albeit by less than 54,000 votes out of nearly 13 million cast, because it would have provided no jail time for guerrillas guilty of war crimes. The deal called for the Colombian government to support significant investment in rural development and to recognize FARC as a legal political party. For its part, FARC agreed to help eradicate illegal drug crops, remove landmines in previous areas of conflict and offer reparations to victims. While the cease fire is expected to remain in place, the possibility of renegotiating the peace accord to make it palatable to a majority of the electorate is less certain.

Mexico, South Korea to begin trade talks in early 2017

South Korea and Mexico early next year are likely to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement. South Korean Ambassador to Mexico Chun Bee-ho and Mexico’s economy minister, Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, in a meeting last month discussed potential FTA talks, agreeing to begin negotiations in early 2017. South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in April agreed to hold a working-level meeting this year to discuss FTA negotiations and South Korea joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Vote now for ag questions to be asked of presidential candidates

Sunday’s presidential debate between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton could include a question on agriculture – if it gets enough votes to be asked. The Open Debate Coalition, formed in 2008 by a diverse group of political, business and organization leaders – such as Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, the National Organization for Women, the Sierra Club and Senate Republicans – is accepting questions from citizens and citizen organizations that could be asked of the candidates at the upcoming debate. The top questions will be chosen based on votes received on them. Click here to vote for the question submitted by NPPC: What policies would you put in place to make sure food prices do not rise?