American Soybean Association delegates representing states throughout the U.S. voted Saturday to ratify a proposal supporting the U.S. negotiation of a free trade agreement with India and other countries in South Asia to take advantage of rising demand there.
“I think the delegates were emphasizing the interest in developing a bilateral trade agreement with India … because of its population,” ASA CEO Stephen Censky told Agri-Pulse after the delegates’ vote on the final day of the Commodity Classic, held this year in New Orleans. “They have a billion people.”
The Indian government, responding to outcry from the country’s livestock producers, temporarily opened its market last year to U.S. soymeal, allowing for imports of roughly 1.2 million metric tons.
It was an unusual move because India is known for frowning on genetically modified commodities.
The new market access last year was short-lived, ending on Oct. 31, when domestic soybean meal was expected to come onto the Indian market. Indian farmers traditionally begin their soy harvest in October.
Indian livestock producers and U.S. soy industry officials have said they hope the Indian government will consider reopening the market again.
“We had an opportunity last year to export soybean meal because their livestock industry needed it. We’d love to see that continue on an ongoing basis as well as have other market access … through a bilateral agreement,” Censky said.
The Biden administration last summer allowed Trade Promotion Authority legislation to expire and has so far shown little desire to begin negotiating new free trade agreements. Trade Promotion Authority is legislation that allows the president to ensure a trade deal will be submitted to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments.
Meanwhile, high Indian tariffs and other barriers are hurting exporters of many U.S. ag commodities, such as tree nuts, pulses, apples and dairy. Indian tariffs on U.S. ag were at least partially behind the Trump administration’s decision to take away India’s qualification for the Generalized System of Preferences, which allows foreign countries tariff-free access to the U.S. market. Congress let GSP expire, but lawmakers are working to reauthorize it.
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