Trade News Comes In Threes

Mar 02, 2018
Balancing act
 Elephant-balancing on small beach ball
WASHINGTON, DC -- Congress and the Trump Administration made headline news in the trade world this week to mixed reaction.

Yesterday the Senate confirmed Gregg Doud as Chief Agricultural Negotiator within the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).  "Mr. Doud's confirmation was long overdue," said Bobby Hanks of Supreme Rice Mill in Louisiana and chair of the USA Rice International Trade Policy Committee.  "We look forward to working closely with Ambassador Doud on our trade issues as he brings his policy leadership to USTR's agriculture office."

President Trump announced yesterday that he would impose import duties on steel and aluminum under a rarely used provision of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 that permits the president to restrict imports on national security grounds.  The president reportedly said the higher duties would take effect "next week."

This action is highly controversial, with the steel and aluminum industries saying protection is vital to counter unfair global competition which has spurred global over capacity and low prices.  Many others, including export dependent industries like agriculture, are fearful of retaliation by countries affected by higher import duties.  The EU and China, for example, have criticized the action and spoken of responding in kind.

On Monday, USTR released the agency's 2018 Trade Policy Agenda and 2017 Annual Report.  The 300-plus page document lays out the President's trade policy agenda.  Citing a "New era in trade policy," the report details the administration's trade priorities, including "...establishing year-round markets for U.S. rice to Colombia, Nicaragua, and China."

"USTR's focus on an assertive trade policy and strong enforcement of trade deals have long been supported and pushed by USA Rice," continued Hanks.  "We're equally aware that trade and trade agreements -like NAFTA and our free trade agreement with Colombia - provide tremendous benefits to our members.  We have to be smart in our actions to protect existing benefits while we pursue new access and justified claims against other countries.  We will continue to deliver this message to our negotiators."