Going forward, this administration continues to seek to uphold current trade agreements, rather than taking bold steps to advance agricultural market access. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai spoke on September 21-22 at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
While exports to China continue to look promising to at least come closer to the ambitious targets set by the Phase 1 trade deal, farmers may not yet be out of the water on trade friction with our destination. No. 1 in agricultural exports.
Vilsack says this administration continues to pressure China to meet its demands and the promises it made in Phase 1. He says the deal included 57 sanitary and phytosanitary issues that China agreed to. to include in biotechnology approvals. Vilsack says they have addressed 50, but seven important SPS issues remain unanswered. Purchase increase set at around 90% of promised levels, although more promising than 2020 level at around 64% of agricultural purchase target.
“We will continue to urge them to meet their obligations and responsibilities while continuing this relationship, which is obviously important to American agriculture,” adds Vilsack.
Speaking to NASDA members earlier in the meeting, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai also said she understands the importance and interest of the U.S. agricultural sector in maintaining market access. Chinese. She assured NASDA members that her staff continue to work with China, including those related to agricultural market access and procurement.
Tai says the USTR has conducted a comprehensive review of the U.S.-China relationship, and trade is a key pillar in that relationship. “I want to assure everyone how seriously we take this relationship. We know this is one of the most important relationships of our time. It’s worth taking the time to get it right, ”she says.
“We got a ceasefire, but we didn’t end the war,” says Ian Sheldon, agricultural trade specialist at Ohio State University. He says the Chinese market access deal has turned out to be more beneficial than many anticipated, including himself. However, the Phase 1 deal only smoothed things over politically, but did not resolve many of the remaining issues.
USMCA also on the radar
Vilsack and Tai both say they raised issues with their Mexican counterparts over their biotech acceptance actions under the US-Mexico-Canada deal. “We will continue to pressure Mexico to abide by the terms and conditions of the USMCA, whether it is GM corn or glyphosate or other issues between us,” Vilsack said.
A recent decision in the Mexican potato market is also high on the watch list, adds Vilsack, who has been dealt with by several jurisdictions over the past 15 years. He expects the potato trade to resume next month.
Tai notes that the USTR requested and established a dispute settlement panel on Canada’s dairy tariff rate quotas. As the first enforcement action taken under the new USMCA, Tai says it’s important to hold business partners accountable.
Vilsack says that now that the Canadian election is over, he hopes to find ways to break down the barriers that exist.
Develop trade elsewhere
While Tai says this administration seeks to focus on enforcing existing agreements, there are also other ways to expand existing trade frameworks, advocate for reforms at the World Trade Organization, and integrate farmers’ action on climate change into the opportunity to open up new market opportunities.
Tai says she remains in close contact with her counterparts in the UK and Kenya, both of whom started talks about trade expansion under the Trump administration. The meetings reinforced the commitment to work towards furthering and deepening shared trade economies in line with the Biden administration’s Build Back Better program.
Many countries also have Trade and Investment Framework Agreements – or TIFAS – which include Indonesia, Taiwan, and a similar type with India. Tai says these help tackle trade barriers, without needing congressional approval. She did not say she would seek the Trade Promotion Authority which offers Congress a favorable or unfavorable vote on any deal negotiated by the executive, but pledged continued coordination and consultation on trade issues with the Congress.
Vilsack says the administration recently succeeded in Vietnam in easing its requirements on trade with American agricultural products, including lowering import tariffs on American pork, corn and wheat products. Vietnam is the seventh largest market for American agriculture.
“It is an important country for us and an important relationship for us to continue to evolve and develop now,” Vilsack said of Vietnam.
“We will continue to look for ways to reduce the barriers and friction that may exist between our country and other countries,” Vilsack said.