U.S. farm groups and some lawmakers used a hearing held by the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture to stress the need for a more aggressive U.S. trade policy that prioritizes the negotiation of new free trade agreements in order to boost U.S. agricultural exports.
“I cannot overemphasize the importance of expanded market access opportunities for U.S. dairy exports,” said Simon Vander Woude, a California dairy producer representing the National Milk Producers Federation at the hearing. “Unfortunately, the United States has already failed to keep pace in the pursuit of such opportunities, compared to our competitors in Europe, New Zealand and Australia.”
Kevin Scott, president of the American Soybean Association and another hearing witness witness, stressed the importance of negotiating new FTAs for the U.S. soy sector.
“While the U.S. has remained idle, our international competitors have been extremely active in forging ahead with new multilateral agreements,” Scott said.
He then listed those FTAs: The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. pulled out of, the Chinese-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the EU-Mercosur FTA and the EU-Ukraine Deep and Comprehensive FTA.
“American agriculture does not benefit from any of these agreements,” Scott said. “Our competitors will see preferential market access for their products and increased market access while the U.S. sits on the sidelines.”
The Philippines and Vietnam are two countries that American pork producers and exporters would like to see the U.S. negotiate better trade terms with, said National Pork Producers Council President Jen Sorenson in written testimony at the Wednesday hearing.
Both countries are importing more U.S. pork, and both have recently agreed to cut tariffs.
The Philippines, in an effort to reduce inflation and counter the impacts of African swine fever, raised its tariff rate quota for pork and cut duties. Those actions are only temporary measures, though, and Sorenson said she’d like them to become permanent.
U.S. pork exports to the Philippines have increased by 100% since the tariffs were cut in April, she said.
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“The U.S. pork industry continues to urge the Philippines government to make the tariff reductions permanent. This is a major downside of not having a comprehensive trade agreement – tariff reductions are seldom permanent,” Sorenson said.
Vietnam also agreed to cut its tariff on pork just this week. Sorenson said NPPC “is encouraged by the negotiations with Vietnam and hopes they lead to broader trade discussions.”
Another focus at the hearing was Trade Promotion Authority, legislation that allows the president to ensure a trade deal will be submitted to Capitol Hill for an up-or-down vote without the threat of Congress amending it. The Biden administration allowed TPA to expire on July 1 and has given no indication when it will seek to get reauthorization.
And that continues to chafe farm and trade groups as well as lawmakers.
“Almost every one of the FTAs the United States has concluded were made possible by the enactment of Trade Promotion Authority legislation,” Sorenson said in her written testimony. “TPA gave U.S. negotiators the ability to extract the best deals possible from trading partners. Without it, no country would be willing to make tough concessions to the United States for fear that Congress could subsequently demand more.”