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Hatch says trade talks will help Utah, but still keeps them under wraps

Published November 22, 2013 10:33 pm

Senator says coalition will grow consumer base and lower fees.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

For Steve Johnson, CFO of Parker-Migliorini International, negotiations of a Trans-Pacific Partnership is exactly what his Utah-based company needs.

Johnson said his company, which exports various meat products throughout the world, is finding difficulty exporting their goods to some Asian countries. For instance, some countries have very "protectionist" policies related to food, and charge the same amount of duty fees to export a higher-priced strip loin as a pound of ground hamburger. This is costly to the company.

"For us, an agreement like TPP is exactly what we need to do to move our business forward," Johnson said Friday during a news conference. "Agriculture is a tremendous business for the United States — it's probably one of the things we are the best at — but we need to have fair access to all these countries and we hope that TPP will allow this to happen."

This week, top trade negotiators from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations met in Salt Lake City in search of a sweeping free-trade agreement.

During a news conference Friday, Sen. Orrin Hatch did not speak about what is specifically taking place inside the walls of the Grand America Hotel during the five-day, closed-door negotiations, but he said trade talks are important for the United States, and for Utah.

Because 80 percent of the world's purchasing power lies outside of the U.S., Hatch said coming to a trade agreement is a necessity.

"Our farmers, our ranchers, our businesses deserve to have access to these consumers who buy American products and services and agricultural products as well," Hatch said. "That's why I've been a longtime advocate of breaking down trade barriers and increasing global competitiveness."

The negotiations in Utah, which are expected to end Sunday, are the 19th round of talks in an effort to narrow differences over a free-trade agreement. The partnership aims to increase trade among the nations to benefit all of them economically.

But protesters, who have camped outside the Grand America doors this week, and critics of the potential partnership have alleged that the high-level talks have been conducted behind closed doors with only multinational corporations given access to proposed provisions.

Hatch agreed Friday that there was some secrecy associated with the negotiations in Utah — but it's necessary, he said.

"When we get under these negotiations, they are sensitive," he said. "They are sensitive to the countries that we are negotiating with. They have to be conducted many times privately, that's just the way it is. There's no desire to keep people out of it."

Hatch said the discussions were brought to Utah because business and government leaders have a solid relationship with trade negotiators. He said the decision to have the meeting in Utah was a "real tribute" to the state.

According to the Trade Partnership, more than 140,000 jobs in Utah are supported by trade with TPP countries, and 20 percent of Utah goods are being exported to those TPP countries.

It is believed that negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership may be nearing an end. Once an agreement is made, it will be subject to congressional approval.

Besides the United States, nations belonging to the Trans-Pacific Partnership are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller