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Roberts emphasizes importance of trade to improve the ag economy

When Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer appeared recenlty before the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., a committee member who also chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, made it clear to Lighthizer that the Trump administration needs to emphasize agricultural trade.

Farm leaders are upset that President Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and has announced that the United States will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

U.S. farm exports to Mexico have fallen in recent months as Mexico explores other sources for its imports of corn and soybeans.

"The work Ambassador Lighthizer has done in the past two months has made it clear he is the administration's leader on trade," Roberts said. "I want to thank him for spreading the message and educating his colleagues and international counterparts about the importance of agriculture trade. I was pleased to hear that U.S. beef is headed for China thanks to the progress made in the 100-Day Action Plan of the U.S. — China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue."

But Roberts also expressed concern about the slow pace of Chinese approval of biotech imports and added, "I spoke at the 2017 Agriculture Symposium held by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. We discussed the severity of the current state of the ag economy. It is clear we are in the middle of a rough patch and the outlook will not improve unless we have a determined effort on trade."

Lighthizer said that no deadline has been set for the North America Free Trade Agreement negotiation, but hopes to get it done by the end of the year, Reuters reported.

Lighthizer also said that Japan should unilaterally decide to make concessions to the United States on beef access and that the United States will proceed with a World Trade Organization case against China charging that it has exceeded its allowable farm subsidies, Politico reported. The China case was filed by the Obama administration.