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Senator Joni Ernst: Expanded trade opportunities critical for Iowa

Joni Ernst
By Senator Joni Ernst, guest columnist

Iowans proudly lead the nation in the production of many agricultural commodities – corn, soybeans, eggs, pork, ethanol and biodiesel. In fact, one in every three rows of the soybeans we raise is exported – not just out of Iowa, but overseas. Iowa also raises more hogs than the next two states combined, and one in four pounds of pork produced in the U.S. is exported.

Access to new markets is critical to both Iowa’s agriculture and manufacturing sectors. In fact, nearly one in every five jobs in our state is dependent on international trade. These are just a few of the important reasons why I have been a strong supporter of trade.

The incoming administration has expressed opposition to the most recently completed trade agreement – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”). In February 2016, after several years of negotiations, the United States and the 11 other TPP member countries signed the agreement. The TPP includes 18,000 tariff reductions for U.S. exports, and of particular importance to agriculture, it also addresses the non-tariff trade restrictions frequently faced by U.S. ag exports.

In its report on the likely impact of the TPP, the U.S. International Trade Commission stated that “[a]mong broad sectors of the U.S. economy, agriculture and food would see the greatest percentage gain relative to the baseline projections.” The American Farm Bureau Federation’s analysis of the agreement determined that, upon full implementation, the TPP would add $5.3 billion per year to U.S. agricultural exports. This would help not only our farmers, but all of those industries that manufacture goods for our farmers.

While I appreciate the concerns about multilateral trade deals raised by the incoming administration, as well as the specific concerns raised about the level of protections for intellectual property and tobacco included in TPP, we cannot let our present disagreements about TPP stop us from pursuing increased market access for American exporters. Of particular importance to Iowa, we are currently seeing an uptick in the demand for protein around the world – including in TPP member countries – and our hard-working farmers deserve greater access to these markets. With each year we delay, we give our global competitors – like China and Brazil – an opportunity to gain a greater market foothold.

We can all agree that any trade deal we commit to in the future should be the best deal we can secure for our American farmers, growers, workers and manufacturers. However, we should not let an opportunity completely pass to level the playing field in important markets, strengthen our relationships, and set the standards for international trade in important parts of the world.

As we prepare for the start of the next Congress, I intend to continue to advocate for a successful trade agenda. That includes both the aggressive enforcement of U.S. trade laws, as well as the pursuit of new and improved trade agreements with our partners around the world. If we cannot move forward with TPP, we should not hesitate to pursue bilateral agreements with TPP member countries as soon as possible.

The world is growing, the world is hungry, and with 95 percent of the world’s potential customers living outside of the United States, we cannot turn our backs on the opportunities to sell our bounty. If we can find a way to move forward on trade agreements with countries with important markets for Iowa products, we should. I remain committed to doing exactly that as we head into the 115th Congress..

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