California Producers See Big Opportunities in Trade


Deputy Under Secretary Alexis Taylor speaks with Mike Antle and his growers about exporting fresh produce.

By Alexis Taylor, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services

As the nation’s top producer and exporter of agricultural products, California has a lot to gain from the market-opening benefits of free trade agreements. The state’s exports not only help boost farm prices and income, they also support nearly 150,000 jobs both on the farm and in related industries such as food processing, transportation and manufacturing.

Last month, I was in central California to visit with the agricultural community about Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would help expand U.S. access to the Asia-Pacific region. During a roundtable discussion with producers of a diverse array of commodities, I heard first-hand how trade benefits their businesses and their communities.

I also visited the beautiful Salinas Valley, known as the “Salad Bowl of the World.” There, I toured the operations of Tanimura & Antle, a company that farms more than 30,000 acres of rich, fertile land and ships a full line of premium fresh produce throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Although the family-run business is already active in the export arena, they are eager to keep growing. And they see Asia as a prime growth market, particularly if a TPP agreement is enacted.

In 2014, the United States exported almost $5 billion in fresh and processed vegetables to the TPP region, but those exports face tariffs as high as 90 percent. If a TPP agreement is approved, tariffs across the region would be cut, offering new opportunities to U.S. producers and exporters like Tanimura & Antle.

The TPP is an opportunity to advance U.S. economic interests in a critical region that accounts for 40 percent of the world economy. The agreement would also help the U.S. respond to the regional and bilateral trade agreements being negotiated by our competitors in the region.

But before we can seal a TPP deal, it’s important that Congress enact Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA. This would help U.S. negotiators secure the best deal possible not only for those who grow and ship vegetables, but also myriad other commodities.

Simply put, TPA is needed to help ensure that American businesses like Tanimura & Antle receive the greatest possible benefit from the TPP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and other trade negotiations.