World Trade Center in New Orleans lauds Pacific trade pact as good for Louisiana _lowres

Advocate staff file photo -- Rice is loaded into a truck in Abbeville for delivery to a mill. A Pacific trade pact would expand the export market for Louisiana rice, cotton, poultry and soybeans, the World Trade Center in New Orleans says.

The World Trade Center of New Orleans said the landmark Pacific trade pact will benefit Louisiana farmers by providing opportunities for growth in promising Asian markets.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is designed to encourage trade among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, nations that represent nearly 40 percent of the global gross domestic product. The deal will eliminate import tariffs on products such as rice, cotton, soybeans and poultry and open up some markets by setting new duty-free quotas for U.S.-produced commodities.

Jerry Hingle, secretary of the WTCNO board and chairman of the agriculture committee, called the TPP “a big win for Louisiana agriculture.”

Louisiana’s agricultural exports already exceed $2.2 billion a year and support thousands of jobs around the state. The trade center said export growth will strengthen in the coming years if the TPP is approved by Congress.

“The WTCNO believes that the TPP will work in favor of Louisiana’s industries and could spur significant economic growth in the U.S. by enhancing competitiveness and bringing jobs to American shores,” said Dominik Knoll, chief executive officer of the WTCNO. “We urge Louisiana congressional leaders to vote in support of this groundbreaking agreement, as in that way we not only open up new markets, but also establish an equal playing field for U.S. companies.”

U.S. goods exports to TPP countries totaled $726.5 billion in 2014, representing 45 percent of total U.S. goods exports. Louisiana exported $17.6 billion in goods to TPP countries in 2014, accounting for 27 percent of the state’s total exports.

President Barack Obama, a strong supporter of the TPP, emphasized that the deal would eliminate or reduce more than 18,000 tariffs that participating countries impose on U.S. exports. The reduction of those tariffs will lower the price that international consumers pay for U.S. goods. For example, Obama said Japan currently puts a 38 percent tax on American beef, and Malaysia currently puts a 30 percent tax on American auto parts.

It will be weeks before the full scope of the agreement announced Monday is known, but several labor groups are worried that it will result in American jobs sent to countries with lower wages and less stringent labor and environmental standards. A congressional vote on the pact is not expected to occur until well into next year, providing unions with the chance to maximize leverage with lawmakers coveting their support.

The president has to wait 90 days before signing the pact, and only then will Congress begin the process of voting on it. Approval of the deal would give Obama a legacy-defining victory. To achieve a victory, Obama will need help from Republicans and will need to overcome doubts from a key Democratic constituency. In the hours after the trade deal was announced, some union leaders made clear that a candidate’s stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership will determine whether he or she can expect support.