The Pacific trade pact and what it means for MN businesses, workers


Minnesota businesses, workers, and elected officials are all working to learn more about the massive Pacific trade agreement reached by negotiators from 12 countries Monday.

The Trans Pacific Partnership is the largest regional trade pact in history, the New York Times says. The 12 nations involved in the agreement announced in Atlanta Monday – including Japan, Australia, and Canada – comprise 40 percent of the world's economy.

While five years of negotiations leading to the deal are now over, the BBC notes that the approval process in each of the 12 countries is only beginning.

The U.S. Trade Representative says the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will lower barriers to commerce while raising standards for workers and the environment.

What does it mean for Minnesota?

That depends upon whom you ask, although many agree it will take time to sort through the agreement.

Optimism about farm markets

One of the world's largest agribusinesses, Twin Cities-based Cargill, said in a statement that the TPP has the potential to create a more prosperous and food secure world.

“We believe the Trans-Pacific Partnership will allow food to move more freely across borders from places of plenty to places of need, which benefits farmers and consumers around the world,” said Cargill chairman and CEO David MacLennan.

The Star Tribune reports the executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association expects the agreement would make it easier for the state's poultry to reach new markets.

During the talks that produced the TPP, the Business Roundtable called the partnership an opportunity for Minnesota to strengthen its trade relationships.

Skepticism about labor standards

The Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition is part of a campaign calling for the text of the trade agreement to be released to the public, Workday Minnesota reports, noting that until now even elected officials have had access only to what's been leaked from the talks.

The Coalition has expressed doubts about whether the agreement will protect workers, expecting it will instead favor large businesses.

Minnesotans in Washington

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democrat who represents northeastern and central Minnesota in the House, quickly came out against the TPP.

In a statement, Nolan said he's been in weekly classified briefings about the talks for the last two years and said it’s "clear to me that there are no significant protections for American manufacturers and workers – for their wages, pensions and health care – or for our economy or our environment."

As for others in Minnesota's congressional delegation, the Star Tribune reports several said – either directly or through others – that it will take time to scrutinize the agreement.

Democrat Keith Ellison has criticized the deal as a job killer, while Republicans John Kline and Erik Paulsen are optimistic it will mean more business for the state's manufacturers and farmers, the newspaper reports.

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