Conaway Backing Bilateral Approach to Trade

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Most farm and commodity groups have expressed concern about the Trump administration’s approach to trade. The withdrawal from NAFTA and TPP  in favor of a bilateral approach does not concern House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, however. He feels that TPP set the benchmark and that any new bilateral deal will improve on what the U.S. farmer had in TPP, “There are advantages to both multi-lateral and bilateral trade deals, and the President prefers bilateral deals so we need to go with that.”

The Texas Republican, speaking on Agri-Pulse’s Open Mike, said he is confident the President will improve U.S. agricultural trade, “He is a deal guy; he knows a good deal when he sees one. I am confident that he, Pence, and USTR, as they move these agreements forward, will use TPP as a starting point and see what kind of a better deal we can get.”

Some farm groups have complained that withdrawal from TPP will give China a competitive advantage in the vital Asian market. Yet Conaway still remains confident that the Trump approach will secure good market access in the future for U.S. agriculture with our Asian customers, “Most of those countries would much rather deal with the United States. If they know a bilateral deal is coming, it will affect how they deal with China.”

Japan’s Prime Minister told the nation’s parliament this week he is open to a bilateral trade agreement with the United States. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he is “not afraid” of a free trade agreement with the U.S. if it benefits Japan, according to online newspaper Japan Today. Abe made the comments following a visit to the United States to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump. The two leaders agreed to launch high-level economic dialogue, including possibly discussing bilateral trade framework. Analysts in Japan predict that, compared to trade negotiations involving multiple nations, Japan may find itself facing harsher demands from the United States in bilateral talks.

This week, House and Senate Ag Committee members met with several White House trade advisors in a closed door session and stressed to them the importance of trade to American agriculture.

A coalition of more than 130 U.S. agricultural groups has anxiously sent letters to President Trump expressing eagerness to work on modernizing NAFTA, but in a way that protects the United States’ $38.6 billion in farm exports to Canada and Mexico – its largest trading partners. The coalition also is encouraging the administration to reduce tariffs and trade barriers in the Asia-Pacific region, similar to what the TPP would have accomplished in countries like Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, and Singapore. The letters invoke Trump’s promise to rebuild the manufacturing sector, noting that the U.S. food and agricultural industry represents 12 percent of all manufacturing jobs in the country, and would benefit greatly from increased exports to Asia.

 

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