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Perdue On US-China Ag Trade Issues; Optimistic about NAFTA Negotiations

Despite this week’s announced sales of some U.S. agricultural products to China, Agriculture Secretary Perdue says there are still several serious agricultural trade irritants.
Despite what Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue calls “disappointment” with the NAFTA negotiations thus far, Perdue still is optimistic that the talks will result in a new NAFTA agreement.  The next round of negotiations begins November 17 in Mexico City.  Gary Crawford and Sec’y Sonny Perdue.

USTR Robert Lighthizer at the First Round of NAFTA Renegotiations

AMBASSADOR LIGHTHIZER Opening Statement:

August 16, 2017-Washington, DC – This is an historic day for the United States. Today, for the first time, we will start negotiating to revise a major free trade agreement.  American politicians have been promising to renegotiate NAFTA for years, but today President Trump is going to fulfill those promises.

I want to thank members of Congress, and their staffs, who have helped lay the groundwork for these negotiations.  We look forward to working with them now and in the future as things proceed.

I would also like to thank the members of our advisory committees, and other stakeholders, who have given USTR their thoughts about how this agreement can be improved.  We held three days of hearings, and we received testimony and comments from thousands of stakeholders.  Their suggestions are critical to our process, and we appreciate everyone’s help.

First, I know we all agree that NAFTA needs updating. This is a 23 year-old agreement and our economies are very different than they were in the 1990’s. We need to modernize or create provisions which protect digital trade and services trade, e-commerce, update customs procedures, protect intellectual property, improve energy provisions, enhance transparency rules, and promote science-based agricultural trade.

In each of these areas, hopefully we will develop model provisions that can be used for years ahead and that have the flexibility to adapt to future innovations that we can’t even imagine at this point. This is an important part of our process.

After modernizing, the tough work begins. We must balance the legitimate interests of literally millions of people in our countries — those of farmers, and businesses, and workers and yes, families.

Many Americans have benefited from NAFTA. For many of our farmers and ranchers, Canada and Mexico are their largest export markets. Americans send billions of dollars of corn and soybeans, and poultry across our borders to dinner tables throughout North America.

These are hardworking people with families who ask little from their government. Many are particularly vulnerable today because of low commodity prices.

I’ve always thought that communities along our borders have a particular equity in this agreement. In many cases their lives, businesses, and families are very much on both sides of the dividing line. They too are hardworking men and women trying to raise a families and accumulate wealth. We must keep their interests paramount.

But for countless Americans, this agreement has failed.

We cannot ignore the huge trade deficits, the lost manufacturing jobs, the businesses that have closed or moved because of incentives — intended or not — in the current agreement.

The numbers are clear. The U.S. Government has certified that at least 700,000 Americans have lost their jobs due to changing trade flows resulting from NAFTA. Many people believe that number is much, much bigger than that. In 1993, when NAFTA was approved, the United States and Mexico experienced relatively balanced trade. However since then, we have had persistent trade deficits – in the last year totaling nearly $57 billion. In the auto sector alone, the U.S. has a $68 billion deficit with Mexico.  Thousands of American factory workers have lost their jobs because of these provisions. In recent years, we have seen some improvement in our trade balance with Canada.  But over the last ten years, our deficit in goods has exceeded $365 billion.

The views of the President about NAFTA, which I completely share, are well known.  I want to be clear that he is not interested in a mere tweaking of a few provisions and a couple of updated chapters.  We feel that NAFTA has fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvement.

Here are some of the examples of what I believe needs to be changed. We need to assure that huge trade deficits do not continue and that we have balance and reciprocity.  This should be periodically reviewed. Rules of origin, particularly on autos and auto parts, must require higher NAFTA content and substantial U.S. content. Country of origin should be verified, not “deemed.” Labor provisions should be included in the agreement and be as strong as possible. The agreement should have effective provisions to guard against currency manipulation. The dispute settlement provisions should be designed to respect our national sovereignty and our democratic processes. We should include provisions to guard against market-distorting practices of other countries, including third-party dumping and state-owned enterprises. We should assure that there is equal access and reciprocity in government procurement and agriculture.

These are just a few examples of key priorities for the United States – but I think they are sufficient to show that our task is a very difficult one.  On the other hand, the stakes are high for all of our citizens and the benefits of a good agreement can be substantial.

My hope is that together we will produce a result which moves us to freer markets, fairer and balanced trade, and stronger ties between our three countries.  I look forward to working with Secretary Guajardo and Minister Freeland on this very important effort. Thank you very much, and now we will get down to work.

In China, Perdue Welcomes U.S. Beef Back to Market

Slices Ceremonial Prime Rib at Meeting with Chinese Officials in Beijing

June 30, 2017, Beijing, China – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today joined with U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad to slice a Nebraska prime rib in a Beijing ceremony, formally marking the return of U.S. beef to the Chinese market after a 13-year hiatus. Perdue celebrated the reintroduction of American beef products to China after shipments were halted at the end of 2003. The return of U.S. beef and beef products is a part of the U.S.-China 100-Day Action Plan announced by the Trump Administration on May 11, 2017, with the first shipment of U.S. beef arriving in China on June 19, 2017.

“Beef is a big deal in China and I’m convinced that when the Chinese people get a taste of U.S. beef, they’re going to want more of it. These products coming into China are safe, wholesome, and very delicious. This is also a good harbinger of the kind of relationship that can be developed. We hope there are other things we can cooperate on and we’re going to use U.S. beef as the forerunner.”

President Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, officials with the U.S. Trade Representative, and Secretary Perdue announced the deal brokered with China to allow the return of U.S. beef to China in May. China has emerged as a major beef buyer in recent years, with imports increasing from $275 million in 2012 to $2.5 billion in 2016. The United States is the world’s largest beef producer and in 2016 was the world’s fourth-largest exporter, with global sales of more than $5.4 billion.

Earlier in June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the final details of a protocol to allow American companies to begin shipping beef exports to China. To date, producers and processors in Nebraska and Kansas are eligible to ship beef products to China, having followed the requirements set forth in the USDA Export Verification Program and according to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service export requirements. USDA maintains a public list of companies that are eligible and will continue to update it as more companies complete the export documentation requirements.

Also on Friday, Perdue held a series of meetings with Chinese government officials, including Vice Premier Wang Yang and Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu, to discuss expanding trade between the United States and China.

Remarks by President Trump on the Policy of the United States Towards Cuba

June 16, 2017, Miami, FL, THE PRESIDENT:…And now that I am your President, America will expose the crimes of the Castro regime and stand with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom.  Because we know it is best for America to have freedom in our hemisphere, whether in Cuba or Venezuela, and to have a future where the people of each country can live out their own dreams.

For nearly six decades, the Cuban people have suffered under communist domination.  To this day, Cuba is ruled by the same people who killed tens of thousands of their own citizens, who sought to spread their repressive and failed ideology throughout our hemisphere, and who once tried to host enemy nuclear weapons 90 miles from our shores.

The Castro regime has shipped arms to North Korea and fueled chaos in Venezuela.  While imprisoning innocents, it has harbored cop killers, hijackers, and terrorists.  It has supported human trafficking, forced labor, and exploitation all around the globe.  This is the simple truth of the Castro regime.

My administration will not hide from it, excuse it, or glamorize it.  And we will never, ever be blind to it.  We know what’s going on and we remember what happened.

On my recent trip overseas, I said the United States is adopting a principled realism, rooted in our values, shared interests, and common sense.  I also said countries should take greater responsibility for creating stability in their own regions.  It’s hard to think of a policy that makes less sense than the prior administration’s terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime…

The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people — they only enrich the Cuban regime.  The profits from investment and tourism flow directly to the military.  The regime takes the money and owns the industry.  The outcome of the last administration’s executive action has been only more repression and a move to crush the peaceful, democratic movement.

Therefore, effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.

I am announcing today a new policy, just as I promised during the campaign, and I will be signing that contract right at that table in just a moment.

Our policy will seek a much better deal for the Cuban people and for the United States of America.  We do not want U.S. dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba.

Our new policy begins with strictly enforcing U.S. law.  We will not lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled.  Elections.

We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security and intelligence services that are the core of Castro regime.  They will be restricted.  We will enforce the ban on tourism.  We will enforce the embargo.  We will take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people, so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country’s great, great future — a country of great potential.

My action today bypasses the military and the government, to help the Cuban people themselves form businesses and pursue much better lives…. And we will work for the day when a new generation of leaders brings this long reign of suffering to an end.  And I do believe that end is in the very near future.

We challenge Cuba to come to the table with a new agreement that is in the best interests of both their people and our people and also of Cuban Americans.

To the Cuban government, I say:  Put an end to the abuse of dissidents.  Release the political prisoners.  Stop jailing innocent people.  Open yourselves to political and economic freedoms.  Return the fugitives from American justice — including the return of the cop-killer Joanne Chesimard…

Any changes to the relationship between the United States and Cuba will depend on real progress toward these and the other goals, many of which I’ve described.  When Cuba is ready to take concrete steps to these ends, we will be ready, willing, and able to come to the table to negotiate that much better deal for Cubans, for Americans.  Much better deal and a deal that’s fair.  A deal that’s fair and a deal that makes sense.

Our embassy remains open in the hope that our countries can forge a much stronger and better path.  America believes that free, independent, and sovereign nations are the best vehicle for human happiness, for health, for education, for safety, for everything.  We all accept that all nations have the right to chart their own paths — and I’m certainly a very big believer in that — so we will respect Cuban sovereignty.  But we will never turn our backs on the Cuban people.  That will not happen….Raul Castro — by the way is leaving now.  I wonder why.

I just want to end by saying may God bless everyone searching for freedom. May God bless Cuba.  May God bless the United States of America.  And God bless you all.  Thank you.  Now I’m going to sign…So this says, “strengthening the policy of the United States toward Cuba.”  And I can add, “strengthening a lot.”   So this is very important, and you watch what’s going to happen.  Going to be a great day for Cuba.

U.S., China Finalize Details to Send U.S. Beef to China

June 12, 2017, Washington, D.C.– As part of the U.S.-China 100-Day Action plan announced on May 11, 2017 by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin, the Trump Administration today has taken important steps toward commercial shipment of U.S. beef and beef products to China for the first time since 2003.  These shipments are results of the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue co-chaired by Secretary Ross and Secretary Mnuchin for the United States and Vice Premier Wang Yang for China.  Accordingly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reached agreement with Chinese officials on final details of a protocol to allow the U.S. to begin the beef exports to China.  Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the posting of technical documents related to the beginning of shipments.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement:

“Today is a great day for the United States and in particular for our cattle producers, who will be regaining access to an enormous market with an ever-expanding middle class.  Since he was elected, President Trump has brought momentum, optimism, and results to American agriculture families that we haven’t seen in years and this agreement is a great example.  I commend the hard work of Secretary Ross, Secretary Mnuchin, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and our USDA representatives.  Without their dedication and persistence, this would have not been possible.  I have no doubt that as soon as the Chinese people get a taste of American beef they’ll want more of it.”

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross issued the following statement:

“President Trump is doing more to improve the U.S.-China relationship than any president in decades, and this final beef protocol agreement represents even more concrete progress. As we clear away long-standing issues like this one, focusing on near-term, verifiable deliverables, we are building a sound foundation for further discussions.  I look forward to engaging with our Chinese counterparts as we address more complex issues to the benefit of both our nations.”

Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin issued the following statement:

“The ‎reopening of China’s market to American beef is an example of the results-oriented approach this Administration has taken in our engagement with China. We will continue to work toward a more fair and balanced economic relationship with China by expanding opportunities for U.S. workers and businesses.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer issued the following statement:

“I welcome China taking this important step to start allowing U.S. beef imports after shutting them out over 13 years ago.  The President’s firm commitment to fair trade that benefits the United States has made this new U.S. beef export opportunity possible.  I encourage China and all countries to base their requirements on international standards and science.  America’s ranchers are the best producers of beef in the global economy, and they can compete and succeed wherever there is a level playing field.”

Background:

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has posted the requirements for its Export Verification program for U.S. establishments shipping to China, which will enable packers to apply for approval to export to China.  The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has also updated its online Export Library specifying China’s requirements for certifying U.S. beef being shipped there.

China has emerged as a major beef buyer in recent years, with imports increasing from $275 million in 2012 to $2.5 billion in 2016. However, the United States has been banned from China’s market since 2003. The United States is the world’s largest beef producer and was the world’s fourth-largest exporter, with global sales of more than $5.4 billion in 2016.  Until the ban took effect, the U.S. was China’s largest supplier of imported beef, providing 70 percent of their total intake.

Following today’s announcement that the U.S. and China have finalized an agreement allowing for American beef exports, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) and Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer (NC-07) made the below comments:

“As one of the world’s largest importers of beef, China has long-been an area of great opportunity for the U.S. beef industry. Well today that ‘great opportunity’ becomes a one step closer to reality for cattle producers across the country, hopefully bringing an end to a 13-year drought on beef exports to China. America’s ranchers raise the best and highest quality beef in the world, and I applaud the administration for its work to move this agreement across the finish line,” said Chairman Conaway.  

“Today’s announced agreement that U.S. beef producers will have access to China’s market, the world’s largest, is a major achievement. The opening of this market is estimated to be worth $2.6 billion for the U.S. beef industry, and I applaud the Trump administration in negotiating this great deal which will benefit our nation’s cattlemen, the agriculture community, and help grow our economy and create more jobs,” said Subcommittee Chairman Rouzer.

LINKS:

President Trump’s Plan – Rebuild America’s Infrastructure

June 8, 2017, THE WHITE HOUSE – Audio excerpts from the President’s speech, “Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure,” a critical pillar of President Donald J. Trump’s agenda to promote job creation and grow the U.S. economy. America’s infrastructure has fallen to 12th in the world and that is unacceptable. Every American depends on our roads, rails, ports, and airports, and the President is committed to fixing this problem, not just pushing more liabilities onto future generations.

Justin Durdan, President of the IL Corn Growers Association, said, “Those of us in agriculture that rely on our rivers to move goods know that without the necessary improvements to these systems, we’d be at a distinct disadvantage as a nation.  Each day that passes with the system in decline represents a loss in our competitive advantage.” Ken Hartman, chair of the NCGA market access team said, “Farmers rely on our national infrastructure every day to get our products to market quickly, safely and efficiently.  Waterways, roads and bridges are central to farmers’ efforts to feed and fuel the world, and we must invest in all of them.”  The Waterways Council applauded the President for committing his vast building experience to modernizing the inland waterways and establishing a goal of completing projects on-time, on-budget, and removing regulatory impediments.

USTR: Trump Administration Announces Intent to Renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement

May 18, 2017, Washington, D.C.  United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer notified Congress that President Trump intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Through these negotiations, the United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the U.S. economy by improving U.S. opportunities to trade with Canada and Mexico.

In the letter to Congress, Ambassador Lighthizer expresses the Trump Administration’s commitment to concluding the negotiations with timely and substantive results for U.S. consumers, businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers.  These goals will be pursued consistent with U.S. priorities and the negotiating objectives established by Congress in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA). Negotiations will begin no earlier than August 16, 2017.

“Today, President Trump fulfilled one of his key promises to the American people. For years, politicians have called for the renegotiation of this agreement, but President Trump is the first to follow through with that promise,” said Ambassador Lighthizer. “USTR will now continue consultations with Congress and American stakeholders to create an agreement that advances the interests of America’s workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.”  

USTR will publish a notice in the Federal Register requesting public input on the direction, focus, and content of the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

President Trump announced the United States’ intention to engage in negotiations related to NAFTA on February 2, 2017. Since then, USTR has begun consultations with committees of jurisdiction in Congress and advisory committees, as outlined by TPA.

Text of USTR Letters to Congressional Leadership.