Maxim Weitzman, the owner of a Miami manufacturer of bath and body products, is hoping the Trans-Pacific Partnership will help his small company expand its presence in the Asian market.
Concept II Cosmetics already exports to 50 countries, but Weitzman said he’s especially interested in Asia because of the rapid growth of the middle class. “The middle class is very interested in made-in-USA products,” said Weitzman during a Friday press call with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.
In the next two weeks, Weitzman said his company plans to launch a new collection of products aimed at the Asian market but he expects even better things if the TPP is approved.
After more than five years of negotiations, the United States reached agreement on the Asia-Pacific trade pact with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam on Oct. 5 in Atlanta. Since then it has been ironing out final details with its TPP partners before a final agreement is released.
The time between agreement on previous free trade deals and release of texts has averaged 45 days, said Froman. After the text is released, Congress has 90 days to review it and the text must be made available to the public at least 60 days before the president signs the agreement. After it’s signed, there is another waiting period of at least 30 days before the president can submit a draft bill implementing the pact to Congress.
The other Pacific Rim countries also must get approval at home before the accord can go into effect.
In the meantime, the White House, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Commerce Department have been trying to drum up support for TPP — the largest regional trade agreement in history. Froman emphasized the benefits for the Sunshine State on Friday.
Goods exported by Florida support 270,473 U.S. jobs, according to a USTR report. The bulk of exports shipped through Florida ports go to Latin America, but 21 percent of those exports are sent to TPP partner nations. Florida sent $12.5 billion in goods to TPP countries in 2014 with exports to Japan leading the way at $1.1 billion.
Under TPP, 97.2 percent of U.S. chemical products would enter TPP countries duty-free immediately, 99.9 percent of transportation equipment, 99.9 percent of health products, 99.6 percent of information and communications products, and 90.9 percent of consumer goods. The report said that TPP also will provide “commercially meaningful market access” for food and agricultural products. Florida orange juice, beef, grapefruit and processed fish have traditionally faced high tariffs in TPP countries.
More than 14,000 Florida companies exported to TPP countries in 2013, according to the USTR report. Ninety-three percent of them were small- and medium-sized companies like Weitzman’s.
Despite the potential of Pacific Rim countries, Concept II currently faces challenges such as tariffs of up to 27 percent in some countries, an appreciating dollar that makes U.S. goods less competitive as well as non-tariff barriers.
The TPP would eliminate tariffs on more than 18,000 American products over time, improve market access for U.S. services and impose high labor, environmental and intellectual property standards on TPP partners.
Under TPP, Weitzman said, uniform labeling standards should speed up registration of his products in TPP countries. For the first time in a trade agreement, he said there is also an annex for the cosmetic industry that includes a non-discrimination clause.