Chief Agricultural Negotiator Ambassador Gregg Doud brings his Kansas upbringing and the lessons he learned on the family farm into every trade conversation he conducts for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
He knows that his job isn’t just to make a deal for the sake of a deal, but to make the best deal he can for the farmers and ranchers of the country who seriously take their job of feeding the world. And as difficult as it is to have patience during this time of low commodity grain prices and adverse weather events and other challenges in farm country, Doud asked for a little more patience of farmers as the USTR’s office continues to go forth and negotiate for improved trade agreements around the world.
“We have to get this done and get it done right,” Doud told the crowd assembled at the WIBW Ag Issues Forum on Sept. 7, during the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.
“We went quite a few years without really moving the ball down the field on trade,” Doud said. “In the last 18 months we’ve been so incredibly busy. The point I have to so often help people understand is you’ve got one shot, one shot to get the agreement right, so if it takes us an extra week or two, with China—this is the biggest trade discussion in the history of the world, and you’ve got to get it right.”
Doud told the audience at the annual Kansas Farm Bureau breakfast that morning that the issue with China isn’t so much about tariffs as it is trade barriers that block access of United States commodities into China. He gave the example of China restricting U.S. beef into the country because of BSE (which has been already addressed in other trade agreements with other countries to everyone’s satisfaction) or restricting poultry imports from the U.S. based on avian influenza (which has been resolved in the U.S. and in agreements with other nations.)
“China bought $124 billion in agricultural products from the world last year,” Doud said. “Our total exports to the world were $145 billion. In our best year we sold China only $20 billion in agricultural products. We should be able to greatly expand that if we had access to their beef, their pork, poultry, hay, alfalfa, pet food, dairy, ethanol—the list goes on and on of the things that we ought to be able to sell to China if we get this sorted out.”
Doud said there have been some bright spots in other trade negotiations that farmers and ranchers can cheer. For example, there should shortly be news on an agreement with Japan, he said.
“They are our third biggest market overall at $14 billion,” Doud said. “This is our biggest beef market. We sell them about $2 billion a year, and yet the tariffs are huge, 38.5%. So if we can get those brought down that could really expand that market.”
Doud told farmers and ranchers that renegotiating NAFTA into the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement brought U.S. growers the same or better in trade deals.
“It’s the same or better regardless of what aspect of the U. S. economy we’re talking about,” he said. “The mantra was ‘do no harm.’ And so we made it into a much better agreement. We updated it for the 21st century. Now it’s time to get it passed through Congress.” Of interest to farmers and ranchers will be the agreements surrounding dairy and poultry with Canada, as well as the language regarding biotechnology that will not only help level trade among the three countries, but will also serve as a good framework when the U.S. conferences with Japan or the EU.
“So if it takes us a little extra time—I know everybody’s anxious, believe me I’m more anxious than anybody—we’ve got to get this done, but we’ve got to get it done right,” Doud said. Because he’s not just speaking for nameless U.S. farmers, he’s speaking for farmers who remind him of the folks he grew up with around home. And that’s something he takes very seriously.
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or firstname.lastname@example.org.