USDA Undersecretary for Trade Ted McKinney was back in familiar territory this week, his home state of Indiana and the grounds of the Indiana State Fair. There he met with farm and agriculture industry leaders and the ag media to talk about trade. Asked about one economist’s expectation of a trade dispute settlement by China and the United States by the November/December time period, McKinney certainly couldn’t predict that would happen, but he sure hopes it will be that quick.
“We’d love nothing more than to settle this,” he said. “I was involved in negotiations, Gregg Doud and I were over there. China offered some things. We appreciated that. There was even a little stretch, but when two-thirds of things they offered are things they really, really need to buy anyway, maybe they need a little more time. But, it’s beneficial for both countries to settle this thing sooner than later, because one of their stated goals is sustained social atmosphere. They don’t want disruptions.”
McKinney will host the Chinese vice-minister of agriculture here in the US in early September, not for negotiations but certainly to maintain open communication.
“It takes a letter of invitation for them to come over. I turned that letter around in one hour. I’m looking forward to seeing him. I consider them friends, but we’ve got some discussions, and we’re not going to negotiate. We’re going to follow USTR and the President’s leads on negotiation, but the fact that he’s coming over, we’re going to sit down and have lunch. I’m going to ask about his wife and kids, maybe he’ll do the same. I just hope that we can keep those channels of communications open because they need us, and we need them.”
Undersecretary McKinney says he is more optimistic on trade issues than he was just ten days ago, largely because of progress with Mexico.
“I think we’re going to land Mexico fairly quickly, and I think after that, if all things work well, Canada should come into place, and therefore finish NAFTA. Discussions have already begun with Japan. I understand they went very well last week. I’ll remind you that the Korea agreement specific to ag never did get opened. That’s a fantastic market that continues to grow. Taiwan, nothing happened there, and growing.”
Is the Trump Administration’s hardball approach with trading partners and potential partners, even developing countries, paying off? McKinney says yes.