Political promises, we all know, are easy to make, and heaven knows a lot of them were bandied about in the lengthy and contentious campaign just ended.
But it’s another story when the office is won and the voters who made the win possible are looking for the payoff on all the high-flown rhetoric.
Our president-elect got a lot of cheers when he promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and to scuttle the long-debated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. And while that may have appeal to those in the manufacturing sector who lost jobs to cheap overseas labor, it could well be a different story for agriculture, where exports are a major part of the farm economy.
Dr. Larry D. Sanders, professor and economist for policy and public affairs at Oklahoma state University, Stillwater, and Dr. Luis Ribera, associate professor and Extension economist at Texas A&M University, College Station, took note of this in an outlook article for our Southwest Farm Press publication.
“The U.S. presidential campaign has highlighted, more than other events, the frustration of many Americans who blame trade and trade agreements for their declining economic situations and diminished quality of life,” they write. “As President Trump settles in, markets await implementation of his promises to renegotiate the NAFTA and backing out of the TPP.”
"Tinkering with both NAFTA and TPP, or placing barriers on imports from China as Trump promised during the presidential campaign, could have serious implications for agriculture."—J.D. Pooley/Getty Images
But, they note, “NAFTA has been very positive for U.S. agriculture and most other sectors. Any attempt to change NAFTA, which will have been fully implemented for nine years at the beginning of 2017, would likely be met with stiff bi-partisan resistance on Capitol Hill.”
Further, they point out, “TPP countries have been key components in record-breaking U.S. agricultural exports in the past few years. East Asia and China account for about half of all U.S. agricultural exports. Trade leadership in the Asian-Pacific countries could go to China if the U.S. backs out.”
Three-fourths of U.S. cotton is exported, they point out, and its top five markets include China, Vietnam, Mexico, and Indonesia. Nearly half of U.S. wheat is exported, and its top five markets include Japan, Mexico, Philippines, and South Korea. One-fifth of U.S. pork is exported and the top five markets are Mexico, Japan, China, Canada, and South Korea.
The USDA reports that 21 percent of U.S. soybeans and soybean products went to export in 2014, with 63 percent of those exports to China. Corn and corn products account for another 9 percent of ag exports, and wheat 5 percent. Overall, according to the USDA, about half of the U.S. rice crop is exported, mostly to Mexico, Central America, Northeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.
“Thus,” Sanders and Ribera caution, “tinkering with both NAFTA and TPP, or placing barriers on imports from China as Trump promised during the presidential campaign, could have serious implications for U.S. agriculture.”