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Weekly Trade Spotlight: FruitPros LLC and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

As the 13th Round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations continues in San Diego, California, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is providing stakeholders with the opportunity to speak with negotiators, ask questions, and share their views. By opening up new markets for exporters and lowering tariffs, trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership help small- and medium-sized companies support more jobs at home. FruitPros LLC, a three-person small business headquartered in Chula Vista, California, is a good example of a company that would stand to benefit from the TPP.

FruitPros, like many small businesses, relies on exports for nearly all of its total sales. Carlos Velarde, a representative from FruitPros, explains that large U.S.-based companies like Costco and Walmart generally only purchase fruit in bulk; businesses like FruitPros that deal in smaller quantities usually “export to Mexico and other Latin American countries.” This situation makes companies like FruitPros particularly vulnerable to trade restrictions. When Mexico implemented punitive duties on U.S. products in 2010, FruitPros sales dropped by over 60 percent.

The certainty that the TPP would provide with respect to tariffs, duties, and trade infrastructure would undoubtedly help small businesses like FruitPros compete in the global market. According to Mr. Velarde, “If we [the United States] do not have favorable trade agreements with our key trading partners, the U.S. economy loses out to other countries like Chile, China, or Argentina, who are also big producers of agricultural products.” For Velarde and his team at FruitPros, favorable trade agreements create opportunities to target more customers and create jobs.

In addition, Mr. Velarde believes that more open markets will benefit U.S. producers and consumers. “Successful trade opens up markets for our many producers…Many people don’t realize how many products we are blessed to produce. Our nation is vast with technology and natural resources…Opening up markets enables our consumers to purchase products at lower costs and it also allows our producers to target other consumers for their products.”

 FruitPros
FruitPros ships fine fruit to clients around the world

Stakeholders like FruitPros LLC play an essential role in shaping trade policy, and a good opportunity for those stakeholders to interact with negotiators is at TPP Stakeholder Engagement Events, where delegates from each participating nation spend time with members of the public to talk about progress and goals. In San Diego, nearly three hundred stakeholders registered to discuss trade policy and the TPP with representatives from each country. In fact, 85 percent of stakeholders surveyed said that they were able to communicate their message to negotiators whose work is relevant to their interest.

USTR’s engagement efforts aren’t limited to stakeholder events at negotiating rounds. USTR has worked for years to involve stakeholders, visiting 35 states over the course of the TPP negotiations to meet with citizens, business leaders, and employees. In addition, trade officials have participated in hundreds of town-hall meetings to get input and perspective from a wide variety of stakeholders.

As part of the Obama Administration’s comprehensive and balanced approach to trade, USTR will continue to seek input from a wide range of sources including citizens, NGO representatives, business owners, government officials, and any other interested parties in the process of trade negotiations.

The 13th round of TPP Negotiations is being held in San Diego, California, from July 2nd to July 10th.