AMELIA ISLAND, FLA. — Ambassador Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, briefed members of the National Grain and Feed Association on March 17 on what he called an extraordinary period of engagement with other nations about adjusting policies and terms of trade. Mr. Doud addressed the U.S.-China trade talks, the importance of ratifying the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (U.S.M.C.A.), efforts to secure a free trade agreement with Japan and difficulties encountered in crafting a trade agreement with the European Union that would include agriculture.
Mr. Doud reminded the grain executives that the talks with China are being conducted under Section 301 of the Trade Act. As such, the talks and results of any agreement are not subject to congressional approval. The case was brought against China because of its unfair trading practices, including forced technology transfer required of companies investing in China, infringement of intellectual property and cyber security concerns.
The United States imposed tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods imported into the United States to pressure China for structural change to address these concerns, and China retaliated by raising tariffs on imports of certain U.S. products, including soybeans and 432 other tariff lines relating to U.S. farm products.
Mr. Doud said with regard to agriculture, the United States sought to force China to confront its excessive subsidization of its farm sector, its refusal to meet its tariff rate quota obligations it accepted when it joined the World Trade Organization as well as its use of non-tariff barriers to thwart free trade in farm products.
China imports about $124 billion in farm and food products a year, Mr. Doud said, adding that the United States in recent years has had a share amounting to about $20 billion. He said if China were to treat U.S. farm products fairly, the United States would have a significantly larger share in the Chinese market.
Any agreement with the Chinese would have to have mechanisms to ensure enforcement of whatever is agreed, he noted. He emphasized the aim is structural change that addresses the issues in contention in all sectors, not just agriculture.
Mr. Doud emphasized it was critical that the United States Congress ratifies the U.S.M.C.A. He said it was essential to get it passed so progress may be accelerated on the other trade fronts, such as efforts to negotiate a free trade agreement with Japan, which is important so the United States will be able to compete in that market on an equal footing with Trans-Pacific Partnership countries.
Mr. Doud said the United States will continue to demand that agriculture be part of any free trade agreement with the European Union. The E.U. has balked at this pointing to its consumers’ concerns over the safety of U.S. farm and food exports. The United States views the purported concerns as a cover for protectionism, Mr. Doud asserted.