As reported by Reuters today, Congressman Paul Ryan, his first major trade speech since taking the helm of the House Ways and Means Committee in January, had some tough words for Canada, saying that both it and Japan must open their markets to imports under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. Ryan added that the U.S. should drop both countries from the TPP negotiations if they are unwilling to open their markets by eliminating agricultural trade barriers.
Speaking at the Washington International Trade Association on Thursday, Ryan said “I would rather fewer countries signed on if it meant we took down more barriers overall.” The Wisconsin Republican, who is a strong ideological proponent for free enterprise, told the group that “Japan and Canada just have to lower their agricultural tariffs. You know, in some cases, Japan’s tariffs reach as high as 700 percent. And Canada has big restrictions on dairy, poultry, and egg products. Those have to go. And if any of the 12 countries currently in the talks think our standards are too high, well, I’d complete the agreement without them and invite them to join it later.”
Ryan had similarly stern words for the European Union regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership saying that it “must eliminate all tariffs – every one of them – just as they promised at the outset.” He also called on the EU to go further and address what he called “unjustified regulations” and labels that he suggested were meant to “frighten” consumers and only existed to “keep politicians in office.”
“The thing about trade is, it can feel like a competition, where there’s always a winner and always a loser, but really, it’s more like a collaboration because both sides succeed. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. More trade means more people from every country, buying, selling, investing, creating — all working together to build a better world,” Ryan said.
The former vice-presidential candidate promised quick action on the “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority, telling the trade policy professionals in attendance that “Trade is good for America,” and while acknowledging that “people have legitimate gripes with the global economy” he attributed such grievances to other countries not only breaking the rules but even more so to “when they rig the rules in their favor.” The solution to this problem he said “is more trade agreements.”
“Nobody negotiates with an empty seat. If we don’t write the rules of the global economy, somebody else will—somebody who may not have our best interests at heart. And if we don’t like the way the global economy works, then we have to get out there and change it.”
Ryan did not mention anything in his remarks about America’s own extensive trade barriers and protectionist policies in agriculture, such as the substantial import restrictions on a wide range of products including milk, cheese, sugar, peanuts, cotton, orange juice, and rice.