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Floor Statement by Chairman Conaway in support of TPA

Today, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway delivered remarks on the House floor in favor of H.R. 1314, a bill that advances Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).  With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the U.S., it is imperative for the U.S. to work to reduce and eliminate international trade barriers so that American farmers and ranchers can compete globally on a level playing field. TPA will provide our negotiators with the credibility necessary to conclude the most effective trade agreements possible.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the rule, and I especially want to commend Chairman Ryan and his colleagues at Ways & Means for their hard work in bringing the underlying legislation before us.

“Everyone in the room knows that America’s farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world. They have continuously proven their ability to meet rapidly-growing and ever-changing demands here at home, but their reach stretches well beyond the U.S. border. In fact, exports now account for almost a third of total U.S. farm income. In the case of commodities like cotton, tree nuts, rice, and wheat, over half of total production is exported. In 2014 alone, U.S. agricultural exports reached a record-setting $152.5 billion, highlighting the growing demand for quality food and fiber around the world. And, as was noted in a recent hearing before the House Agriculture Committee, the United States exported almost as much beef, pork, and poultry to the 20 nations with which we have free trade agreements as we did to the other 170-plus nations in the world combined.

“Beyond the obvious benefits to producers, trade also helps support almost one million American jobs in production agriculture and in related sectors like food processing and transportation. As a result, it is crucial—not only to American Agriculture, but to the U.S. economy as a whole—to maintain and increase access to the world’s 7 billion consumers, 95 percent of whom live outside of our borders.

“To obtain that access, it is imperative that we work to reduce and eliminate international barriers to trade so that our farmers and ranchers can compete globally on a level playing field.  With negotiations in the World Trade Organization languishing for the past 14 years, regional free trade agreements represent our best opportunity for expanding trade opportunities for U.S. agriculture.  But as history has shown, in one form or another, trade promotion authority has been vital in completing and implementing past agreements. In fact, Congress has granted TPA to every president since 1974, and the 114th Congress should be no exception. TPA will provide our negotiators with the credibility necessary to conclude the most effective trade agreements possible, by making it clear to the rest of the world that Congress and the Administration are serious about this endeavor.

“The legislation before us today empowers Congress to move an aggressive trade agenda.  It includes the strongest measures to date for ensuring that the President sticks to the negotiating objectives laid down by Congress, including the unicameral ability to turn off TPA for any individual agreement. At the end of the day, it is Congress that will decide the fate of each agreement.

“In conclusion, I have long been a proponent of free trade and the benefits it provides for our nation’s producers and consumers. However, if we are not going to continue to expand markets for America, other countries, often with lower standards, will step up to the plate and fill the demand. Markets are not won or regained easily when lost, and billions around the globe want the quality food and fiber we can offer them.

“We can win over new markets, boost our economy and meet these global demands first and foremost by showing that we are a strong and reliable trading partner. We can make that happen by passing TPA.

“Thank you Mr. Speaker.  I yield back the balance of my time.”