Business, ag groups urge TPP nations to avoid exclusions

Leading business and agriculture groups are urging the dozen countries negotiating a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal to oppose efforts to exempt products and industries from a final agreement. 

The groups — the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Council for International Business, American Farm Bureau, National Foreign Trade Council and Emergency Committee for American Trade — sent a letter on Monday to all Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) nations, including the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, arguing that any exclusions would have far-reaching global trade consequences. 

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"Going down such a path will weaken the final deal and set the wrong standard for trade agreements going forward,” the six groups said in a statement sent to The Hill on Wednesday.

"Most importantly, it will do damage to the ability of businesses in the United States to access and have core rights of fairness in foreign countries to the detriment of U.S. exports, economic activity and jobs in our nation," they said.

They argue in a letter sent to all 12 nations late Monday that allowing exclusions in the TPP invites countries to put "unscientific, discriminatory or otherwise unfair and illegitimate" restrictions on products and sectors.

TPP negotiations are aiming to conclude years of talks this week — as early as Thursday — during meetings in Atlanta. 

The letter comes amid growing concerns from lawmakers on Capitol Hill that tobacco might lose protections in a final deal.

In July, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms Impeachment battle looms over must-pass defense bill 'Saturday Night Live' presents Trump impeachment hearings with 'pizzazz' of soap opera MORE (R-Ky.), among other tobacco-state lawmakers across the Capitol, warned that carving out tobacco would jeopardize passage of a final deal in Congress.

On Tuesday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals Trump to award Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese MORE (R-Utah) said that he will carefully review any deal that reaches Capitol Hill. 

“If the administration and our negotiating partners do conclude an agreement this week, they can be sure that I will examine it very carefully to ensure it meets these standards," Hatch said on the Senate floor. " And, as I have stated many times before, if the agreement falls short, I will not support it. And, I don’t think I’ll be alone on that.”

He urged U.S. trade officials to take their time in getting a strong deal. 

“If you look at the bipartisan coalition that supported our TPA bill, you should get a pretty good sense of the balance it will take to get enough support here in the Senate and over in the House," he said.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocratic senators introduce bill to block funding for border wall live stream Booker, Sanders propose new federal agency to control drug prices Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant MORE (D-Ore.), ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, on Wednesday said that while key issues remain outstanding “Americans deserve nothing less than a good deal for our workers and our businesses."

“If an agreement can’t be reached in Atlanta that reflects these priorities and is consistent with the objectives of trade promotion authority, I expect the negotiations will continue until such an agreement can be obtained."