McKinney: US-China negotiators talking by video |

McKinney: US-China negotiators talking by video

Agriculture Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney speaks to the National Corn Growers Association Corn Congress meeting in Orlando.
Photo by Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report

ORLANDO, Fla. — U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are talking by video following the latest meeting in person in Washington and in advance of the expected meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Agriculture Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney told corn and soybean producers here Saturday.

The negotiators are “working on nontariff barriers, not the numbers,” McKinney said, adding that if China removes some of its nontariff barriers “the numbers” of Chinese imports of U.S. farm products will grow.

He made the comment in separate speeches to the Corn Congress, the annual meeting of the National Association of Corn Growers, and the annual meeting of the American Soybean Association. The meetings followed the Commodity Classic, the annual gathering of corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers.

McKinney said he is “bullish” on reaching an agreement with China and said he believes Trump and Xi will meet at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club resort in Florida this month, even though that has not been announced.

But he urged the corn growers to drink milk for the moment rather than celebrate with a “corn-based beverage.”

In other comments, McKinney said he could not legally tell the growers to lobby Congress to approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but that USDA has “an incredible set of analytics” to provide Congress on the importance of the proposal, which would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

He also said growers’ “voices are needed now” to urge the White House to end the Section 232 tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum.

The USMCA, he said, “did no harm” to agriculture, which had been successful in exporting under the North American Free Trade Agreement and “we built a fence — maybe a wall around Canada is a better word — so they can’t cheat with Class 7 milk.”

The latter was a reference to the class of milk that U.S. producers have said resulted in unfair export competition.

McKinney also praised provisions on Canada’s classification of wheat, British Columbia’s display of U.S. wine and distilled spirits, and chapters on biotechnology and sanitary and phytosanitary practices.

The Trump administration “can’t lose USMCA,” McKinney told the soybean growers. If Congress does not approve USMCA, “forget Japan” and other trade agreements that farmers want, he added.

McKinney said there is “a limited runway” for negotiations with the European Union, because “the president will be only so patient” with the organization of 28 European countries.

On the possibility of a trade agreement with the United Kingdom, McKinney said that depends on how the UK exits the EU. But he added that “It is probably not a good thing for them to diss our products,” such as chlorine-washed chicken.

McKinney said USDA had about three big trade missions per year, but in 2018 there were six and this year there will be seven. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will lead one while Deputy Secretary Steve Censky, McKinney, and Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Kenneth Isley will go on others, he said.

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