Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is critical to finalizing the five years of negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told small business owners in a conference call recently, urging them to speak out in support of both TPA and TPP.  TPA limits Congress to an up or down vote on any proposed trade pact.

The United States could realize an additional $123 billion in overall trade activity and $11 billion in agricultural sales through the proposed TPP agreement, but that will not occur until Congress grants President Obama TPA, Vilsack told the small business owners.  He pointed out that TPP is an enormous opportunity to expand U.S. exports of high-value agricultural products by reining in foreign tariffs that run as high as 200 percent is some of the other 11 negotiating countries.  Foreign agricultural trade is critically important to both the rural and national economies, with 30 percent of all U.S. agricultural sales connected to exports, Vilsack said.

Secretary Vilsack pointed out that, without “fast-track” authority, President Obama will have a difficult time concluding negotiations this year. There is a serious, organized, vocal opposition to TP and trade agreements, he said.  “We need a correspondingly well-organized and powerful counter message, and that can come from small business  It is important that business owners make their voices heard,” he said.