Midwest Farmers Looking For New Markets Worry They're Losing Out On Trade


By Kristofor Husted, Iowa Public Radio

May 17, 2017


President Trump made campaign promises to pull the U.S. out of big international trade deals and focus instead on one-on-one agreements with other countries. But that has farmers worried they will lose some of the $135 billion in goods they sold overseas last year.


Two years ago, Missouri rancher Mike John expected the U.S. beef industry to grow by providing steaks and hamburgers from the Midwest to hungry eaters in Japan. He was planning on the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a massive trade deal among 12 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. It took eight years of negotiations to get each nation involved to agree to lower tariffs. Some economists expected the pact to add $3 billion dollars to the U.S. agriculture industry. Trump, however, called the TPP a disaster and pulled the U.S. out.


“We were very disappointed,” John says. “The TPP was going to be a victory for us. It was going to open some markets and lower some tariffs and those are the things that give you access.”


Consumers in Japan have a growing taste for high-quality American beef. But today, the beef that John and other ranchers produce faces a staggering 38 percent tariff to get into Japan. The TPP would have slashed that number to 9 percent.


Now that the original TPP deal is effectively dead, John is eager to see the next move.


“There is no question that every industry wants to grow and flourish and if we’re going to do that with 96 percent of the world’s population outside the borders of this country, we have to trade,” John says. “We have to export our product.”


Even more disconcerting is news that Japan has pitched the idea of a mini-TPP, which would exclude the U.S. and lower tariffs among competitors.


While many in the agriculture industry have spent months working to save trade negotiations, others suggest that free trade can lead to job losses...


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