Ministers from the 12 countries including the United States that have agreed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact signed it this week at a ceremony in New Zealand, formally marking the beginning of a ratification process that is looking increasingly tenuous in the United States.
In general, member countries have two years to consider the deal before it is entered into force. Of course the more quickly the agreement goes fully into effect, the more benefits U.S. farmers will see from it.
Still, the timeframe for U.S. consideration got even murkier this week, with several influential Members of Congress expressing concern that the agreement won’t be considered before the post-election lame duck period or maybe even until next year.
President Barack Obama met with leaders of the House and Senate on the matter this week with no solid outcome beyond plans for more discussion. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said this week that the deal could take “years” to approve, while Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) offered support for the measure but skepticism that a vote will happen this year.
Farm groups including the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) called for the agreement to be considered in 2016, and other countries that are party to the deal including Japan plan to take it up in the near term.
The TPP agreement is the first such trade deal that addresses the issue of biotech crops. It is also explicitly designed to allow other countries from both Asia and the Americas to participate after it is ratified and entered into force by the original 12 member countries; countries including Colombia, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines have already signaled interest.