Today, the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee held a hearing, chaired by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), focusing on the agriculture industry and the role free trade agreements play in increasing exports, creating jobs, and strengthening the economy of rural and urban America.
As Chairman Reichert said at the start of the hearing:
“The United States is and must remain the world’s leading agriculture exporter. We excel at producing and exporting a wide variety of agriculture products. For example, my home state of Washington is a leading exporter of fruit, vegetables, and wheat. If our agriculture sector is to continue to grow and be a source of prosperity and jobs, we must be able to sell to the world’s expanding markets.”
In 2015, U.S. agriculture exports reached upwards of $140 billion, representing more than 20 percent of the nation’s farm production.
John Weber, President of the National Pork Producers Council, explained how the agriculture industry stimulates the economy. Breaking down that math, he told the Subcommittee:
“Farm and food exports have a positive multiplier effect throughout the U.S. economy. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, every $1 in U.S. farm exports stimulates an additional $1.27 in business activity. … This economic activity creates jobs. Every $1 billion of U.S. agricultural exports requires the full-time work of approximately 7,550 Americans throughout the economy, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Exports in 2015, therefore, supported more than 1 million full-time jobs.”
While the global demand for U.S. agriculture exports is expected to grow, many of our foreign competitors impose tariff and non-tariff barriers — such as high tariffs, import quotas, arbitrary regulations, and border restrictions — that inhibit the success of U.S. agriculture.
Every Member of the Subcommittee agreed that a strong trade agreement can be a powerful tool to break down these barriers, open up new markets, and promote American products. As witnesses representing the broad agriculture community — as well as the pork, fruit, beer, grain, and dairy industries — explained, trade barriers impede their ability to find new customers, sell their products, grow their bottom line, create new jobs, and contribute to a strong economy.
Randy Mooney, a dairy farmer in Missouri and Chairman of the National Milk Producers Federation, echoed these sentiments when he said:
“If we aren’t in the game actively negotiating on these issues, we are ceding ground to our competitors and those looking to make it tougher for us to do business in their markets.”
As Congress assesses trade agreements — such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership — Mooney added:
“Well-negotiated trade agreements are essential to ensuring that we do not lose out to competitors who are themselves cutting [free trade agreement] deals around the world. Poorly negotiated trade agreements risk forsaking critical opportunities to level the playing field for U.S. exporters.”
As a fruit farmer from Chairman Reichert’s home state of Washington, Dale Foreman, added, more than 95 percent of the world’s population lives outside of the United States. He warned Members that without strong trade agreements that break down barriers:
“We will not only lose out on opportunities to expand exports, but will also jeopardize our current market share, as our international competitors plow full steam ahead on new agreements that will lower their tariff rates and place our growers at a disadvantage.
“The United States must also be vigilant both in holding our trading partners accountable for fair, science-based trade policies, and in meeting our own international trade obligations.”
Chairman Reichert also emphasized the importance of implementation of obligations by our trading partners in agreements such as TPP:
“Trade agreements must be done right and must be fully implemented and enforced to benefit America’s agricultural producers. … The Administration must also work with the other TPP countries, as well as Congress and stakeholders, to develop plans as to how these countries will comply with TPP’s obligations. … This will be essential to getting Congressional support for the agreement, in addition to resolving other outstanding issues.”
At the end of today’s discussion, Chairman Reichert concluded:
“We all, as you might have picked up from the conversation, on both sides of the aisle recognize the importance of trade. … If we’re going to be in this global economy, and we are, we have to lead. We have to set the high standard. We have to define what a global economy looks like. When America does that, the rest of the world will follow us and will be a part of that high standard, fair trade agreement.
“We do have a lot of work to do, and there are some issues we want to resolve. … [T]he the bottom line statement for all of us is: we want to make sure this works for the American people, that this creates jobs here at home, protects jobs here at home, and most of all then creates jobs here at home for our younger generation.”
For more information about today’s here, click here.