Closing Statement of USTR Robert Lighthizer at the Third Round of NAFTA Renegotiations

Ambassador Lighthizer:

…It is fitting that we have been negotiating here in Ottawa – a city known for its rich history in trade. Canada is celebrating 150 years in 2017, but for thousands of years the Ottawa River Valley has been a center of trade, and the present capital city is now also a center for trade policy. So it’s a special honor to be here in Ottawa.

Here at the close of round three of these negotiations, I join Minister Freeland and Secretary Guajardo in welcoming the progress that was made to this point.

I also join them in thanking the six or seven hundred people from our three governments who have been working of this issue. And I think it’s important for everyone to realize just how big this is. This is hundreds and hundreds of pages of very technical, technical work that covers really almost the entire of all of our economies, in one way or another. And there’s six or seven hundred people working weekends and very long hours to get to where we are, and they are dedicated to continuing until we get to the end of the process.

I also echo my counterparts’ remarks on closing the chapter on Small- and Medium- sized Enterprises. These businesses are the engines that drive each of our economies. They represent great ingenuity and hard work, turning businesses into dreams and into reality. They employ millions of our citizens. And, when they look to trade internationally, they first look to trading in North America.

So it’s very, very important that we completed this chapter.

Additionally, significant progress continues to be made in numerous other areas, including competition policy, digital trade, State Owned Enterprises, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, customs, and telecommunications. But of course, there is an enormous amount of work to be done, including on some very difficult and contentious issues.

We continue to push for ways that will reduce the U.S. trade deficit. We are committed to a substantial renegotiation that reinvigorates U.S. industry and ensures reciprocal market access for American farmers, ranchers, and businesses.

The negotiations are continuing at an unprecedented pace, and the United States looks forward to hosting the next round in Washington, DC in about two weeks.

Minister Freeland, Secretary Guajardo – thank you both for your continued engagement in the NAFTA renegotiation process. I am hoping that our countries are capable of producing a new NAFTA that will fuel economic growth for all of us in North America in the years to come.

Trilateral Statement on the Conclusion of the Third Round of NAFTA Negotiations

Ottawa, Canada – Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Mexican Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo, and United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer today successfully concluded the third round of the renegotiation and modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The round took place in Ottawa, Canada from September 23 to 27, 2017.  Negotiators made significant progress in several areas through the consolidation of text proposals, narrowing gaps and agreeing to elements of the negotiating text.  Negotiators are now working from consolidated texts in most areas, demonstrating a commitment from all parties to advance discussions in the near term. In particular, meaningful advancements were made in the areas of telecommunications, competition policy, digital trade, good regulatory practices, and customs and trade facilitation.  Parties also exchanged initial offers in the area of market access for government procurement.

Importantly, discussions were substantively completed in the area of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), effectively concluding negotiations on that chapter pending specific outcomes in related discussions. The inclusion of a chapter on SMEs in a modernized NAFTA recognizes the contribution that SMEs make to our economies. The chapter will serve to support the growth and development of SMEs by enhancing their ability to participate in and benefit from the opportunities created by this Agreement, including through cooperative activities, information sharing, and the establishment of a NAFTA Trilateral SME Dialogue, involving the private sector, non-government organizations, and other stakeholders.  In addition to a specific chapter on SMEs, negotiators are also working on modernizing other aspects of the agreement that would benefit SMEs, including customs and trade facilitation, digital trade, and good regulatory practices. Discussions also touched upon energy trade, gender and Indigenous peoples.

We also advanced substantively in the competition chapter and expect to conclude the negotiation on this chapter prior to the next round.

NAFTA partners continue to be guided by a shared desire to create jobs, economic growth and opportunity for the people of our countries. Canada, the United States and Mexico remain committed to an accelerated timeline for negotiations. Ministers from all three countries have reiterated the mandate to the Chief Negotiators to continue on an accelerated path. Negotiators will continue their work and consult with their respective stakeholders in preparation for the fourth round of talks in Washington, D.C., from October 11 to 15, 2017.

NAFTA Renegotiation Update – Round Three Wrap-Up

The United States, Canada and Mexico now prepare for the next round of North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations after concluding the latest installment of talks in Ottawa. Rod Bain and U. S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Wheat Organizations Applaud Trump Administration’s Aggressive Trade Enforcement at the WTO

September 27, 2017, Arlington, VA — U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) welcome the decision by the Trump Administration to make sure China is living up to its commitments on wheat trade.  In response to action by the Administration, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body has established a panel to rule on a complaint filed in December 2016 by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) regarding China’s administration of its tariff rate quotas (TRQs) for wheat and other agricultural products. USW and NAWG are very pleased with the Trump Administration’s aggressive use of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism on behalf of wheat farmers.

This is the second panel established at the WTO under the Trump Administration to defend the interests of wheat farmers. The first will examine whether China’s market price support programs for wheat, corn, and rice violate its trade commitments. According to a 2016 Iowa State University study sponsored by USW, China’s market price support programs cost U.S. wheat farmers between $650 and $700 million annually in lost revenue by pre-empting export opportunities and suppressing global prices.

China also has a WTO commitment for an annual TRQ of 9.64 million metric tons (MMT) of imported wheat. The panel established Sept. 22, 2017, in the TRQ case will review evidence that China has not administered this TRQ in a transparent, predictable and fair manner as required by its WTO obligations. The result is that China’s TRQ administration unfairly impedes wheat export opportunities for U.S. wheat farmers, as well as farmers from Canada, Australia and other wheat exporting countries, to the detriment of Chinese consumers.

“It is very encouraging to see the Trump Administration defend farmers against governments that say to the world they will live up to their commitments, but then scheme to disregard the rules we all need to ensure global trade is conducted freely and fairly,” said NAWG President David Schemm, a wheat grower from Sharon Springs, Kan. “Wheat growers will always stand up and applaud when the Administration expands, improves and enforces trade agreements on behalf of farmers.”

“Trade enforcement is crucial for building confidence in existing and new trade agreements,” said USW Chairman Mike Miller, a wheat farmer from Ritzville, Wash. “The Trump Administration’s actions should send a signal that strong and enforceable trade rules are vital to the United States and to U.S. farmers, specifically.”

To read more about the dispute panel established in the TRQ case, visit the WTO website  and the USW website.

More information about the market price support case is posted online at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds511_e.htm and at http://www.uswheat.org/newsRelease/doc/8707CB93926092D98525802D0056551C?Open.

USW’s mission is to “develop, maintain, and expand international markets to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat producers and their customers.” USW activities in more than 100 countries are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 18 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. 

NCGA Calls on EPA to Rescind 2015 WOTUS Rule

September 27, 2017, Washington, D.C. – The National Corn Growers Association today asked the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to rescind the 2015 “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule and write a new rule that provides farmers with clarity and certainty, reduces red tape, and does not discourage farming practices that improve water quality.

“Corn farmers take very seriously the important role we play in helping the country meet its water quality goals, as laid out in state and federal statutes, including the Clean Water Act. We depend on clean water for our livelihood, and we are committed to conservation practices that protect our nation’s streams and rivers,” NCGA President Wesley Spurlock wrote in comments submitted today to the Agencies.

Spurlock called the 2015 rule inconsistent with the aims of the Clean Water Act, and noted that the rule also “has the perverse effect of making it harder for farmers to practice good soil and water conservation, nutrient management, and water quality protection practices.”

Farming practices such as grass waterways and buffer strips reduce sediment and nutrient runoff. Instead of encouraging these types of farming practices, the 2015 rule effectively discouraged them, due to both the bureaucratic red tape, and fear of legal action.

“We support the Administration’s effort to create a new WOTUS rule, and we stand ready to work with them to ensure farmers have the clarity and certainty they need,” said Spurlock.

Cattlemen “Very Pleased” That Tax-Reform Blueprint Includes Death Tax Repeal, Will Fight to Maintain Existing Positive Provisions in Tax Code

Septenber 27, 2017, Washington, DC — Craig Uden, President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, released the following statement in response to the “Unified Framework” for comprehensive tax reform legislation:

“Our Nation’s cattle producers are very pleased that President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have maintained their long-standing commitment to American agriculture by including a full repeal of the onerous death tax in the Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code. We look forward to working with the Administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill as pen meets paper on tax legislation, and will continue to demonstrate how the death tax and its associated costs adversely affect family-owned operations and the rural communities they support.

“Also, current provisions in the tax code that help livestock producers maintain economically viable businesses and support the success of future generations of farmers and ranchers must be preserved. Stepped-up basis, cash accounting, like-kind exchanges, cost recovery, and the deductibility of interest payments are just a handful of the provisions that allow agricultural producers to survive despite the many challenges we face, from market volatility and fluctuating input prices, to droughts, wildfires, and floods, to the challenge of generational transfers. We’ll closely monitor these provisions as more details on legislative language become available, and intend to fight tooth and nail for a tax code that supports America’s beef producers.”

Measuring Hurricane Impacts On The Nation’s Cotton Crop

The effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma on cotton crops in the path of the storms will be better known next month, via USDA data. Rod Bain, Chief Economist Rob Johansson, Lance Honig of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

USDA To Lead First-Ever Ag Trade Mission to Brazil

Next week a USDA trade mission will be exploring American ag export opportunities in Brazil.  USDA will help American agribusinesses explore export possibilities.  This USDA ag trade mission to Brazil will include American organizations involved in specialty foods, lumber and ethanol. Stephanie Ho and FAS Deputy Administrator for Trade Programs, Mark Slupek.

New Additions to Top Ag Commodities Insured List; Analyzing Some Risk Management Trends

More diverse crop insurance offerings brought a change last year in the top farm commodities covered by insurance.  What are some of the ways crop insurance has grown in its offerings, coverages and importance as part of the farm risk management safety net? Rod Bain and Leiann Nelson of USDA’s Risk Management Agency.