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Chief U.S. Agriculture Negotiator Discusses Trade Issues on Capitol Hill

Gregg Doud, chief agriculture negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, testified on 13 September before the Senate Agriculture Committee. The hearing covered many agricultural trade issues including problems with U.S. exports to Canada, which have been negatively affected by Canada’s dairy supply management system and other barriers. Several farm-state lawmakers told Doud that they would like to see the United States rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership. While Doud was unable to make commitments on any of these issues, he promised to take the concerns of farm-state senators into account, including in bi-lateral discussions with Japan. 

Agricultural exports to mainland China were a particular focus of the hearing. "They don't buy the wheat they said they would buy when they became a member of the WTO”, Doud complained. “They don't buy the corn. They buy no rice from us. Their tariff on distillers’ grains [a by-product often used for animal feed] is 80 percent. Their tariff on ethanol is 70 percent. They don't buy any poultry from us", he added.

With respect to U.S. beef exports, Doud told the committee that "we finally got a thimbleful of beef in there after 15 years of me personally working on that.” He also noted that “the grain sorghum thing is difficult, and we aren't selling them what we think would be a billion dollars' worth of pet food.” Doud concluded that “the point being with China is that they need to change their behavior.”

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (Republican-Kansas) noted in his opening statement that “we need to hold our trading partners accountable, but I am concerned some of the trade actions we have seen in recent years are causing uncertainty and unpredictability for the agriculture industry.” After hearing Doud’s comments, Sen. John Boozman (Republican-Arkansas) acknowledged the various goals of the Trump administration on trade but cautioned that his farmers need the U.S. government to “wrap this up as soon as possible.” Democratic senators were more pointed in their criticism, including Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado who decried the administration’s trade policies as “insane” while telling Doud that he did not need a lecture.

Doud was joined at the hearing by the USDA chief economist and the undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs. These officials discussed USDA programmes aimed at helping farmers harmed by the loss of export markets.

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