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Leaders meet with top U.S. ag trade official


Siddiqui delivers keynote at university's World Trade Day


By JOHN O'CONNELL


Capital Press


Idaho Sugar Beet Growers Association Executive Director Mark Duffin considers an existing trade agreement between the U.S. and Australia to be acceptable for his industry.


So Duffin was a bit concerned about the ramifications of the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which would eliminate 11,000 tariffs among nine Asia-Pacific countries, including the U.S. and Australia. Duffin's mind was set at ease, however, when he and other Idaho commodity group leaders had a private audience with the top U.S. trade official for agriculture, Ambassador Islam Siddiqui.


The chief U.S. agricultural negotiator assured Duffin the Obama administration has no plans to reopen any existing trade agreements through its involvement in the TPP agreement.


Siddiqui was in Idaho to deliver the keynote speech at Boise State University's World Trade Day, sponsored by the Idaho District Export Council. He also hosted an industry roundtable at the Idaho State Department of Agriculture's Boise office and toured the J.R. Simplot Co.'s Caldwell plant.




Travis Jones, executive director of the Idaho Grain Producers Association, asked Siddiqui to describe the impressions of foreign leaders about genetically modified crops.


"He thinks they're slowly but surely becoming more accepting of biotech," Jones said. "There's more interest now in the U.S. with our biotech companies to look at wheat and what can be done with biotech."


During his address, "Free Trade Agreements and American Jobs," Siddiqui also discussed the potential for U.S. cattle in China, fresh U.S. potatoes in Mexico and frozen U.S. potato products in Korea, where tariffs were recently eliminated. Siddiqui took the lead on developing a trade agreement that took effect March 15 in Korea, as well as an agreement that starts May 15 with Colombia and a third agreement with Panama.


"There's a clear relationship between agricultural trade and job creation," Siddiqui said. "For every $1 billion we export overseas, it creates 8,000 jobs right here, either on the farm or off the farm."


He said the administration also set a goal in 2009 of doubling U.S. exports within five years.






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