- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

DENVER (AP) - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack began a national tour Friday in Colorado to promote the Pacific Rim trade deal, stressing that U.S. farm exports stand to benefit from the proposal.

Vilsack met with agriculture and business leaders in Denver, saying that agricultural exports like fruits and vegetables have become the fastest-growing aspect of trade increases in the last five years.

“And it’s because of the quality that our family farmers are producing. The rest of the world wants it,” he said.

The annual value of Colorado agriculture exports is $1.7 billion and they support 12,900 jobs, according to Vilsack’s office.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is designed to encourage trade among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The pact would reduce tariffs in the participating nations in a bid to open markets.



“There are family farms across the United States who will benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it’s certainly true here in the state of Colorado,” Vilsack said.

Congress still has to approve the deal, and it’s expected to be a difficult sell. The deal has drawn opposition from every Democratic presidential candidate. Hillary Rodham Clinton this week became the latest to oppose the partnership.

The TPP has upset labor groups, environmentalists and other constituencies that Democratic candidates see as key to their success in the primaries. Labor groups have expressed worry that the deal will lead to domestic jobs going overseas with lower wages and less stringent labor and environmental standards.

Vilsack announced in August that he would be supporting Clinton’s candidacy, and he was diplomatic Friday in addressing her opposition to the proposed deal.

He noted that when President Barack Obama first ran for president, he suggested that NAFTA could be improved, but Vilsack said that wasn’t necessarily an indication that he was against the agreement. Vilsack said he has the same sense about Clinton.

“I think her attitude is, ‘Good start, but I can do better.’ And I would expect nothing less from a presidential candidate,” he said.

Vilsack will continue his tour next week, going to California on Monday and Tuesday, then Washington state Tuesday and Wednesday. He’ll be visiting other states, but his office said his schedule hasn’t been finalized.

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