The Biden administration announced Monday its plan to nominate Elaine Trevino, president of the Almond Alliance of California and former deputy secretary for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, to be the next chief agricultural trade negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Trevino will be filling a key role for the U.S. ag sector as the Biden administration wrestles with how it should deal with China and what the U.S. goals will be for potential free trade agreements with the UK, the European Union and Kenya. Those are all holdover issues from the Trump administration, but the U.S. ag sector is also keen for the Biden administration to forge ahead with new free-trade agreements in Southeast Asia or perhaps even enter talks to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

For those reasons and more, U.S. lawmakers and farm sector leaders have been pressing the Biden administration to nominate a chief ag negotiator.

It was in August that U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told Agri-Pulse that filling the post was a top priority.

She also stressed that figuring out the U.S. strategy for “engaging with China and holding them accountable for the promises they made” is another priority and the U.S. farm sector is counting on a chief ag negotiator to represent producers' interests during that engagement.

California almond growers were hit especially hard by the U.S.-China trade war and export numbers continued to lag even after the “phase one” trade pact was signed between the two countries.

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But all of U.S. ag is going to be counting on Trevino, if her nomination is approved in the Senate, to help fight for new market opportunities and protect established trade deals, such as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Mexico under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has become increasingly anti-biotech and that has U.S. ag concerned. Mexico has not approved a new ag biotech trait since May of 2018, and that is blocking trade of apples, canola, corn, soybeans and potatoes.

Trevino, who was born in Fresno, ran her own consulting company out of Sacramento before her post at CDFA under Gov. Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

During her leadership at the Almond Alliance, former Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue appointed Trevino to the USDA Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade.

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