At Thursday’s general session of the USMEF Spring Conference in Kansas City, USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney addressed USMEF members via teleconference on a number of key trade issues and Trump administration trade priorities. He opened with a discussion of an important breakthrough on trade with Mexico and Canada.
“Last week we finally – finally – got some good news,” McKinney said. “How many of you celebrated when those Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum came down for Canada and Mexico and they, in turn, removed tariffs on us? I cannot tell you how hard, and how many ways, we were vectoring in to try to communicate the harm and the damage that situation was causing.”
McKinney noted that resolution of the steel and aluminum tariff dispute helped the U.S. avoid additional tariffs on agricultural products entering Canada and Mexico, and that it creates a “runway” for ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – though he cautioned that the timing of a Congressional vote on USMCA remains uncertain.
McKinney expressed excitement about Japan’s removal of longstanding restrictions on U.S. beef exports, including the 30-month cattle age limit.
“After 15 or so years, we got full, all-age beef access to Japan – another big reason to celebrate,” he said. “That did not come with any lack of effort as well, and I know that many of you in the room were involved. I think this will provide some wonderful opportunities now and well into the future because when talking to people on my visits to Japan, I know how much they like and appreciate U.S. beef.”
McKinney was also asked to comment on U.S. agriculture’s desire for rapid progress on trade negotiations with Japan, given Japan’s recent entry into trade agreements with key competitors.
“I couldn’t agree more,” McKinney said. “And I believe that both USTR and USDA, top to bottom, and for that matter the White House, are all in on that. Secretary Perdue raised this very issue when he was in Japan for the G-20 [meeting of agricultural ministers], and we do not fail to raise this issue wherever and whenever we need to.”
McKinney urged patience regarding U.S. trade talks with China, which had been making solid progress but recently hit significant obstacles.
“You need to know that there was backsliding (on China’s part),” he explained. “We saw it, and it’s true. And it was not just agriculture, it was occurring across all sectors of the negotiation. So I guess that was to be expected, but I remain more optimistic than not.”
McKinney reminded the audience that he is a former USMEF Executive Committee member, and he emphasized that his experience with the federation has proven very valuable in preparing him for his role at USDA.
“During those years I got to work with the USMEF team on a regular basis,” McKinney said. “So call me grateful for the time I spent with you, because I use that background literally every day and every week.”
Thursday’s USMEF Spring Conference highlights also included meeting of the USMEF standing committees:
- Exporter Committee
- Pork and Allied Industries Committee
- Beef and Allied Industries Committee
- Feedgrain and Oilseed Caucus
These committee meetings will be covered in upcoming editions of the USMEF Export Newsline.