National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson Saturday cautioned the American public – rural and urban alike – to be very leery of the rhetoric being used to sell upcoming trade deals and to insist that any agreement signed by this country has the primary goal of reducing the overall trade deficit.
“Trade is neither inherently good nor is it inherently bad,” said Johnson. “And the string of deals that have been signed into law over the past decade, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the more recent Korean trade deal have failed to deliver prosperity and instead have exported good American jobs while growing the overall trade deficit,” he said.
Johnson noted that in 2014, the trade deficit increased to $505 billion, representing nearly 3 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and slowing growth for the overall economy. “Yes, the positive trade balance of U.S. agriculture trade is good news – but it is massively overshadowed by the alarming overall U.S. trade deficit,” he said. “And all family farmers and ranchers should take note of that,” he said.
Johnson said that Congress should deny the request of the president, and any president in the future, who asks for Trade Promotion Authority — also known as Fast Track.
“Fast Track allows the president to negotiate these agreements in secret and then present them to Congress for an up or down vote, with any and all amendments forbidden. Trade agreements that lack transparency should raise everyone’s eyebrows,” said Johnson.
As in the past, another enormous and mysterious deal being considered, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), has been negotiated behind closed doors with little input from the public or Congress. “The lack of transparency in negotiating TPP is particularly egregious, considering its expansive scope,” said Johnson.
“Several countries involved in the TPP negotiations are known currency manipulators including Malaysia, Singapore and Japan,” said Johnson.
Recent reports noted that the U.S.-Japan trade deficit reached nearly $80 billion in 2013, and currency manipulation was the most significant cause of the deficit. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that this trade deficit with Japan resulted in 896,600 jobs eliminated in the U.S., in nearly every congressional district.
Another massive agreement in the works with Europe, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), offers more of the same.
“Although many of these deals have benefitted family farmers and ranchers, they have done so at the cost of the loss of millions of American jobs and higher trade deficits for our children,” he said. “And this growing drag on the U.S. economy will eventually drag rural America down with it,” noted Johnson, since U.S. consumers are by far the largest market for the goods from family farmers and ranchers,” he noted.