The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an Asia-Pacific trade agreement was the topic of a hearing held by the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade late last week, and is expected to generate more attention in 2012.

The TPP currently includes Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Japan, Mexico and Canada have shown interest in joining the pact as well.

At the House hearing Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), and Ranking Member Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), welcomed the growing interest from other countries, but emphasized that all partner countries must commit to a comprehensive agreement, including food safety and sanitary-phytosanitary agreements.

Adding Japan to the TPP is of particular interest to U.S. pork producers as Japan is the No. 1 pork export market in terms of value and No. 2 in volume. In 2010, Japan purchased 435,000 metric tons of U.S. pork, worth more than $1.6 billion. This year is on pace to end with even stronger sales to Japan.  

Of course, bringing Japan to the TPP would not just benefit U.S. pork but would be an important trade move for all of U.S. agriculture. Further expanding U.S. ag exports would not only save but create America jobs, points out the National Pork Producers Council.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis testified that negotiators are underway to strengthen a sanitary-phytosanitary agreement in the trade pact by increasing transparency and guaranteeing that food-safety risk analyses are grounded in science. For the U.S. pork industry, significant benefits from the TPP will come from the removal of sanitary and technical barriers to trade that some TPP countries currently have in place, NPPC points out.

The council will work to convince the administration and Congress that Japan should be included in the negotiations.

For more information about the hearing and to read testimony, click here.