NEW ORLEANS, La. — The front-runners in the United States presidential race are against the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement but the deal has a high-profile supporter in the agriculture sector.
“I’m here today as a strong proponent, a strong proponent, an unapologetic proponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told delegates attending Commodity Classic 2016.
Donald Trump, who is leading the Republican presidential nomination, and Hillary Clinton, who is ahead for the Democrats, have both publicly stated their opposition to the pact.
Influential members of the U.S. Congress have indicated they want to delay ratifying the agreement until after the November national elections.
Vilsack said that would not be wise because the TPP gives U.S. farmers access to an exploding market. There are 535 million middle class consumers in Asia.
“In just 15 years that number is going to grow by 2.7 billion people.”
That would result in a middle class that is 10 times the size of the entire U.S. population.
“It’s an opportunity for us to balance the Chinese influence in Asia,” said Vilsack.
He said China will negotiate an all-Asia trade agreement if the U.S. opts out of the TPP and that agreement won’t have the same stringent sanitary and phytosanitary rules and commitment to science-based policies that is contained in the TPP.
The American Farm Bureau has conducted a detailed analysis of what kind of impact the agreement would have on the American farm economy.
“It is going to increase farm income by $4.4 billion,” said Vilsack.
He said it is up to the agriculture community to convince politicians of the value of the agreement.