Randy Veach 2017-11-07 00:20:26
Several important trade agreements are on the proverbial “table,” which is fitting, because agriculture and food often are the centerpiece of trade agreements with other countries. Most talk centers on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a critical agreement involving the United States, Canada and Mexico. I’ve been fortunate to serve as a “trusted adviser” in my role with the USDA/USTR Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee. I sat in on round 1 of the negotiations in Washington, D.C. and took part in conference calls before and after rounds 2-4. Canada and Mexico are our largest trading partners. These neighbors are vital to U.S. farmers and ranchers. We agree that some changes need to be made with NAFTA, but we’re hesitant to disrupt the flow of U.S. farm products to Canada and Mexico. There are needed adjustments in some areas, no doubt, with dairy, timber, fruits, vegetables, poultry and eggs all requiring some attention. One-third of Arkansas’ agricultural economy (the state’s largest industry) depends on successful negotiation of trade agreements. This means U.S. trade issues are broader than just NAFTA. There are meaningful discussions surrounding the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), first enacted in 2012. U.S. exports of agricultural products to Korea were $6.2 billion in 2016, our fifth-largest agricultural export market. Leading export categories include: beef products ($1.1 billion), corn ($865 million), fresh fruit ($389 million), prepared food ($370 million) and pork products ($365 million). In addition, timber products are also a large market with South Korea. Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-Chong said South Korea would “consider all possibilities, including no deal being reached” after agreeing to begin the process of amending KORUS. He also reported “communicating in no uncertain terms to the U.S. that demands for additional openness in the agricultural sector are our ‘red line’ and something completely unacceptable.” Rice is something that must be allowed to be traded through a renegotiated KORUS. The U.S. and Korea must find compromise, and ensure we don’t lose the open markets for other commodities in the original agreement. Of course, Cuba remains a potential market opportunity for U.S. farm products. Arkansas is in a good position because of our relative proximity and the commodities we raise here almost all appeal to Cuban tastes. However, the Cuban government must change its approach to basic human rights and also ensure the safety of visiting U.S. government officials and citizens. Without these safeguards, any trade expansion with Cuba will be extremely difficult. You will also remember that President Trump stopped the Trans Pacific Partnership, insistent that the U.S. was giving away too much as part of this 11-nation agreement. Since the U.S. pulled out of that agreement, others have jumped in, making direct bilateral trade agreements (country to country) with many of those countries, meaning the U.S. is possibly squeezed out of those markets. We must get to work on our own bilateral agreements, since country-to-country deals are easier to negotiate than complex, multination agreements. The most critical component of trade agreements with other countries isn’t the revenue it provides to U.S. farm markets. More important is the nutrition our agricultural products provide to the people of other countries. In my role at Arkansas Farm Bureau, I’ve been blessed to travel to Mexico, Panama, China (twice), Cuba, South Korea, Japan, Belgium, Switzerland and Japan. I’ve seen the need for U.S. farm products in those countries. Many can’t raise enough food to feed their people. Trade of U.S. farm products provides a two-way benefit, for U.S. farmers and ranchers who have broader markets to sell their products to, and the citizens of the countries with which we do business. I’ve always been proud to be a U.S. farmer, because our goal is the feed, clothe and shelter the world. God bless you and your families. God bless our farmers and ranchers. And God bless Arkansas Farm Bureau.
Published by PCI Publishing. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://epubs.democratprinting.com/article/FarmBureau+Perspective/2931331/451704/article.html.