McKinney: Trade missions can’t make up for loss of China market
Agriculture Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney acknowledged Monday that trade missions to sell U.S. farm products in foreign markets cannot make up for the loss of U.S. exports to China.
In a telephone call to reporters from Bogota, Colombia, where he is leading a trade mission, McKinney acknowledged that the China market has been so big “it is difficult for any one or 10 missions to counter what is going on in China,” a reference to the reduction in U.S. exports due to the conflicts between the Trump administration and the Chinese leadership.
McKinney said that as far as he knows there are no negotiations over agriculture taking place with China at the present time.
There has been tremendous “unfairness” in the trading relationship with China, McKinney said, adding he hopes the two countries “get back to the table” soon.
He also noted that the agriculture community has been “disappointed” that President Donald Trump has said he will impose new tariffs on Mexican goods coming into the United States if Mexico does not act to curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
Farmers were “disappointed” that the president announced plans to impose tariffs on Mexican products only a week or two after lifting the steel and aluminum tariffs “but they understand the difficulty that the president is in,” he said.
“We in agriculture would love to get back to trade normalcy not just with Mexico but many of the others,” McKinney said.
His said his missions, totaling 11 so far, will continue to focus on larger emerging markets, but he “will not walk away from” traditional customers including China and Mexico.
McKinney said he did not know if the Trump administration’s decision to make it more difficult for Americans to travel to Cuba would have an impact on Cuba’s purchases of U.S. food products.
Fifty-four companies, two state agriculture officials, nine cooperator groups and two regional associations representing branded companies made the trip to Colombia, he said, noting that the level of trade with Colombia is “balanced” with $2.9 billion in exports and $2.6 billion in imports.
Most of the imports from Colombia are in coffee, cut flowers and avocados, products “we don’t concentrate on,” he said. The exports are mostly corn, soybeans, soymeal, distilled dried grains, wheat and ethanol.
“It is always good when you have a good sense of balanced trade,” he concluded.
“There is a wonderful collaboration here. We’d like to keep a good thing growing.”