By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
Chief US Agricultural Negotiator Gregg Doud says trade negotiations with China began in earnest a year ago, leading to 20-plus negotiating sessions before talks broke down.
“These conversations have been historic, in my opinion. We have spent hours and hours and hours together, talking about an enormous number of issues in agriculture,” Doud tells farm broadcasters gathered in Washington, D.C., including KFEQ Farm Director Melissa Gregory.
Doud uses numbers to make his point about the difficulty in negotiating with China and the stance of the Trump Administration, which has led to trade tensions between the two countries, leading both to slap tariffs on the goods of the other.
Doud says U.S. agriculture reached a peak in its exports to China in 2017, when China imported $19.6 billion in American agricultural products. That total dropped to $9.3 billion in 2018 even though total U.S. agricultural exports grew by $2 billion to $145 billion in 2018.
China last year imported $124 billion in agricultural goods.
“So, in a good year, we’re getting 20 out of 124 of what China imports and the point I have made from the beginning of this conversation and continue to make with my counterpart in China is that 20 out of 124 just isn’t going to cut it,” Doud says.
Doud says talks broke down after China backed off of agreements the two countries reached. Doud says structural agricultural trade issues must be resolved before the trade dispute between the two countries can be ended.
Undersecretary of Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney is confident the U.S. will reach a trade deal with China. McKinney also reiterates a point he has been making, that the U.S. needs to work with other countries, some in Africa, to expand trade. He says there can be long-term benefits establishing trade ties with several countries.
“So, if we take the long-term view and not look at quarter-by-quarter results like the corporate financial sector or the Nasdaq, I think we have an opportunity out there and we must never forget that we’re still driving toward feeding nine to 10 billion, the number varies, by 2050. It’s going to take a lot of protein to do that,” McKinney says.
McKinney admits the country is going through “choppy waters” right now in wake of trade talks breaking with China, but he insists the long-term outlook is favorable. He adds the Trump Administration is committed to protecting the income of farmers during the current disagreement.