Several major deficiencies in the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact (TPP) – including failure to address currency manipulation or set in place adequate labor and environmental standards – are clear evidence that passage of this pact would hurt American food processors, family farmers and ranchers, while also posing serious threats to U.S. domestic beef production and prices, according to two advisory reports submitted today to the USTR.
The minority report to the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade (APAC), released last week, argues, “passage [of the TPP] will reduce American food processing jobs, labor standards and farm gate prices and result in increased imports and decreased exports of American agricultural products.” The report was submitted by Chandler Goule, National Farmers Union Senior Vice President of Programs, and Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division.
The authors point out that currency manipulation, which for years has caused American job losses and increased the U.S. trade deficit, is totally unaddressed by the TPP. “This deficit damages the entire economy and has impeded job growth and income gains,” they point out. “Since this is unaddressed, it could nullify the tariff reductions, harming the export potential of many American sectors including and especially beef.”
The report also notes that the TPP would fail, “to place labor and environmental standards on equal footing with economic rights and elimination of sustainability preferences.”
“Regrettably, the labor chapter reflects only incremental improvements over past agreements like NAFTA and will not offset the low labor standards currently existing in many TPP signatories,” note Goule and Lauritsen. “Driven by the attraction of low wages, the U.S. is vulnerable to loss of food processing jobs.”
A similar minority report from the Animal and Animal Products Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade (ATAC), which was also released today, notes that passage of the TPP would pose serious threats both to rebuilding the U.S. cattle herd and to domestic beef production. This is evidenced by:
- Since the passage of NAFTA, 50 plants have closed taking out 52,695 in daily kill capacity.
- On January 1, 2014, beef cow numbers fell to their lowest level since 1941.
- Total commercial cattle slaughter in 2015 will fall below 30 million for the first time since 1963, when it totaled 27.232 million. This year’s total is expected to be down 4% to 5% from 2014.
- For fed beef packers, 2015 fed steer and heifer slaughter is expected to decline about 3.5%, or 850,000, from last year.
- Nine processing plants have closed since the start of 2013, representing a slaughter capacity 3.7 million annually.
- Since 2007 cattle numbers fell by 8.843 million as of 2014. This forced Cargill in February 2013 to close its Plainview, Texas, plant costing 2,000 high paying union jobs with good benefits. Four other U.S. beef plants have since closed causing the loss of an additional 2500 high paying jobs.
Kurt Brandt, UFCW’s Assistant to the Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division was a signatory to the ATAC minority report.
“Clearly, the U.S. Trade Representative was out-negotiated in this case,” notes Brandt. “The series of NAFTA-style free trade agreement passed over the past two decades has led to increasing live cattle imports that have directly depressed U.S. cattle prices, and impeded herd rebuilding. Increasing beef imports allowed by ongoing trade deregulation suppresses U.S. beef prices, and further delays herd rebuilding.”
“The primary beneficiaries of this agreement [the TPP], i.e., global food processing companies, would be further empowered to move more of their U.S. jobs overseas,” Brandt wrote. “This means that claims of increased benefits for U.S. food and agricultural production rings hollow, because much of the increasing foreign demand for food will be met by processing plants being built in other countries – including plants built overseas by U.S.-based companies.”