Free trade agreements, trade war impact and retaliation, sanitary and phytosanitary measures were topics discussed at the Farm Foundation Forum in Arlington, Virginia, writes John Wilkes.
Aptly named ’Agricultural Trade in a Time of Uncertainty’, it highlighted challenges facing US agriculture and geopolitical consequences.
Ted McKinney, US Undersecretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Affairs and Gregg Doud, Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of US Trade Representative (USTR) outlined key US concerns.
Mr McKinney believes ’there is not free, fair and reciprocal trade around the world’ and added trade disruption is global and ’some of that is created here by us’.
He added: "The cause is just...the US tries to sort this out."
Mr McKinney was ’cautiously optimistic’ outstanding global issues could be resolved.
Mr Doud quoted 2018 Chinese agricultural imports at $124 billion; only $20 billion from the US. He said: “20 out of 124 just is not going to cut it; that is not even close given the capacity of US agriculture.”
Chinese imports of beef, pork and poultry in March 2019 were worth $960 million, with only $35m coming from the US.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) held China to account for wheat and corn production violations.
The USTR negotiator contended these were ’two of the biggest WTO trade cases in history’.
He acknowledged ’considerable frustration’ with India because they were the largest world rice exporter and now wanted to export wheat.
Actual domestic subsidies for rice production in India ’exceed declared amounts by seven times’, according to Mr Doud.
Consequently, the US filed WTO counter notifications across a range of Indian farm commodities.
The EU came under fire when Mr Doud explained between 2014 and 2017, the bloc provided 11 billion euros to fund non-governmental organisations.
"That is unbelievable to me," he said.
He questioned recent news about pesticides. Should newer products be banned, the US is concerned EU farmers might use older, less environmentally friendly technology. The EU said old chemicals will also be banned.
Mr Doud said EU farmers ’have subsidies so they have no say’.
He asked rhetorically if ’milk, vinegar and beer’ would prove acceptable insecticide/pesticides for EU farmers.
Mr Doud said: “We have all dealt with the Europeans during our careers, but my level of frustration is now beyond.”