Nearly 200 agricultural associations and companies this week sent a letter to President Trump expressing their support for the China Phase One Trade Agreement and its importance to U.S. agriculture.
The group is urging against the United States withdrawing from the agreement as Trump recently stated his disappointment with China's failure to contain the coronavirus pandemic and it "had cast a pall" over the trade deal. Trump tweeted yesterday that the United States has an "option, under various conditions, of complete decoupling from China."
The letter states, "As you know, the U.S.-China Phase One Trade Agreement is critical to both the near- and longer-term success and growth of American agriculture — and the millions of American jobs the agricultural sector sustains."
The letter emphasizes the importance of the trade agreement to U.S. agriculture and the need to continue with the agreement. "While the current pace of U.S. agricultural exports to China is below the pace needed to meet the Phase One goals, American farmers, ranchers and rural communities remain optimistic that the purchases under this agreement will accelerate and be fulfilled by China, and that as a result, the American agriculture sector will enjoy important market opportunities. This is especially important considering that U.S. net farm cash income in 2020 is projected to decline 9% or $11 billion from the prior year.
"The U.S.-China Phase One Trade Agreement will act as foundation for prosperity of the U.S. agriculture sector. At this especially challenging time, rural America needs one of its greatest potential export markets for food and agricultural products."
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, testifying at both a House and Senate trade hearings on Wednesday, says he expects China to live up to its commitments of agricultural purchases. The hearings were held the same day the Wall Street Journal published excerpts from former National Security Advisor Josh Bolton's book in which he accused President Trump of asking Chinese President Xi Ping to help him win re-election by buying more agricultural products. The White House has denied Bolton's claim.
Those signing the letter included the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Association, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Institute, U.S. Dairy Export Council and U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Dicamba back in court
Questions remain if producers and custom applicators can still use dicamba that were in stock as of June 3. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to respond this week why the agency is allowing the use after the court vacated the registrations for XtendiMax, Engenia and FeXapan.
The plaintiffs that brought the original dicamba case, including the Center for Food Safety and Center for Biological Diversity, filed an emergency order last Thursday asking the court to end the use of the products and hold EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in contempt of court for allowing producers and custom applicators to use the dicamba products that were in stock on June 3.
In defending its decision, the EPA responded to the court saying rescinding a registration "only makes it illegal to distribute or sell that pesticide. It does not outlaw use of products already purchased."
The plaintiff, Center for Biological Diversity, responded in their brief this week saying, "EPA can't flout the rule of law. The Ninth Circuit has the power to stop ongoing harm from dicamba use and rightfully did just that."
USTR releases negotiating objectives for Kenya
The USTR recently released its negotiating objectives for a potential Kenya free trade agreement. The administration can begin formal negotiations 30 days after the negotiating objectives are released.
The specific objectives for agriculture good outlined by USTR are:
- Secure comprehensive market access for U.S. agricultural goods in Kenya by reducing or eliminating tariffs.
- Provide reasonable adjustment periods for U.S. import-sensitive agricultural products, engaging in close consultation with Congress on such products before initiating tariff-reduction negotiations.
- Eliminate practices that unfairly decrease U.S. market access opportunities or distort agricultural markets to the detriment of the United States, including:
- Non-tariff barriers that discriminate against U.S. agricultural goods; and
- Restrictive rules in the administration of tariff rate quotas.
- Promote greater regulatory compatibility to reduce burdens associated with unnecessary differences in regulations and standards, including through regulatory cooperation where appropriate.
- Establish specific commitments for trade in products developed through agricultural biotechnologies, including on transparency, cooperation and managing low level presence issues, and a mechanism for exchange of information and enhanced cooperation on agricultural biotechnologies.
According to the USTR, Kenya is the 98th largest trading partner of the United States. Major U.S. imports include apparel, tree nuts, essential oils and coffee. Kenya's major imports include aircraft, machinery and agricultural goods.
Callahan named assistant USTR for ag affairs
Julie Callahan has been named assistant U.S. Trade Representative for agricultural affairs and commodity policy by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Recently, Callahan has been serving as deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative and senior director at USTR's Agricultural Affairs Office with a focus on the European Union, United Kingdom, Turkey and Eastern Europe. Callahan earned a bachelor of science degree at MIT and a doctoral degree at the University of Massachusetts.