U.S. ag negotiator talks trade deals

Ambassador Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, spoke Nov. 17 about developing new international trade agreements at the Tri-State Grain Growers Convention in Portland.

PORTLAND — Ambassador Gregg Doud arrived in Portland around midnight Nov. 17 after an exhausting 25-hour flight from Morocco in North Africa, where U.S. trade officials spent last week working to reopen U.S. beef exports into the country for the first time since 2003.

“This is what we do in this job,” said Doud, who serves as chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. “It was a lot of arguing back and forth, a lot of heavy-duty conversation, but nonetheless we got it done.”

Doud was the featured speaker to wrap up the annual Tri-State Grain Growers Convention in Portland, updating farmers about the Trump administration’s trade priorities with Europe, Japan and China.

The U.S. recently implemented tariffs on $200 billion worth of products from China, which led to retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods targeting agriculture. The USDA stepped up over the summer with $12 billion in emergency relief for farmers and ranchers who will be affected by the escalating trade war.

Doud said the U.S. has two major agricultural disputes with China to be resolved before the World Trade Organization. The first involves Chinese subsidies to wheat, corn and rice farmers, which he believes exceeded $100 billion over several years.

“But we don’t really know, because China hasn’t reported to the WTO what it spent on its subsidies since 2010,” Doud said. “They’re the only country in the world that has done that. It’s truly outrageous.”

At the same time, the USDA amended China’s corn stocks from about 58.5 million metric tons, to more than 200 million metric tons. China today has more than 60 percent of the world’s corn, and more than half the residual supply of wheat in the world, Doud said.

“So, when their support price for wheat in China is double the world price, China, you’re killing the price of wheat for every other farmer in the world,” he said. “You’ve got to play by the rules.”

Much attention is now on President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will sit down at the end of the month at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Doud said the hope is that conversation can lead to another, and then another, until both countries are ready to finally sit down at the bargaining table.

“We’re not trying to raise the stature of the U.S. and decrease the stature of China,” Doud said. “As they evolve, it’s going to be in their best interest to do these things as well.”

Doud praised the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which the Trump administration has proposed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement but still needs congressional approval. Next on the list, he said, is a bilateral trade agreement with Japan, announced between President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

As a former market analyst for the U.S. Wheat Associates, Doud said he understands how crucial the Japanese market is for Northwest wheat growers. The situation will only become more urgent as terms under the new Trans-Pacific Partnership come online at the end of the year between Japan and Canada, and the European Union-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement kicks in by April 2019.

“We’re going to be in real trouble,” Doud said. “If you lose that market share, I don’t know if you ever get it back. I understand how important this is to get this right, get this done, get this squared away as quickly as we can.”

One thing Doud said he will push hard for in the deal is a “preference clause,” meaning that if Japan negotiates a better deal with another country, the U.S. would automatically get those better terms as well.

Turning his focus to Europe, Doud said the U.S. must be ready to start negotiating trade with Great Britain as it leaves the European Union — commonly known as “Brexit.” Meanwhile, the European Parliament recently approved greater restrictions on antibiotics in livestock that will take effect in 2022, a move that Doud warned could result in damage here to animal agriculture.

Doud blamed the development on “too many activists in this world, making money by scaring people about the food they eat.”

“That’s what we’re seeing here in our line of work,” he said. The challenge will be to bring regulatory systems together over time.

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