This week, Canada and Mexico became official participants of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. They join the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei in these ongoing talks and will participate in the December negotiating round in Auckland, New Zealand. Japan has expressed interest, but so far, has only participated as an observer.
American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Executive Director Peter Orwick reacted on behalf of the sheep industry to the announcement that, again, the TPP offers little export opportunity for the U.S. industry.
"We already have tariff-free trade with Canada and Mexico; in fact, they are our largest export markets for lamb and mutton, with some wool trade as well," said Orwick. "The other lamb suppliers to North America will be seeking the same tariff treatment through the TPP to compete against us in Canada and Mexico."
A quote from New Zealand officials exemplifies that interest saying Canada's membership in the TPP would maximize and leverage efforts by New Zealand companies to participate in North America's integrated global value chains, as Canada and the United States largely operate as an integrated market with many industries spanning the border.
Early this year, ASI formally requested the Senate Committee on Finance to seek benefits for domestic sheep producers in the federal negotiations of TPP. The export markets that closed to American lamb due to the 2003 BSE situation all remain closed yet today, years later and in some cases even after beef trade has resumed. The United States must open significant export markets for American lamb prior to any discussion of lamb imports to America under the proposed TPP, stated the trade group.
"In meetings with top U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, ASI shared the lamb companies' requests to be allowed to sell American lamb into Europe, Taiwan, Japan and Russia. Export trade is very helpful to our lamb market and, in fact, we moved from importing 100,000 feeder lambs from Canada 10 years ago to the trade now being exclusively boxed lamb going north," continued Orwick. "This year is a great example of why we need export opportunities beyond North America as companies found themselves with excess cooler and feedlot inventory."
The nations now involved in the TPP negotiations are comprised of 658 million people with a combined annual economic output exceeding $20.5 trillion. It will unite North and South, East and West in a Pacific economic free-trade zone of developed and developing countries of Christians, Muslims and Buddhists and of nations that border, not only the Pacific, but the Atlantic, the Indian, the Arctic and Antarctic oceans as well. And once it is up and running, the invitation would be there for China to join, making the TPP not only the biggest, but virtually the only, game in town.