Perdue on trade: Pass USMCA, Japan expected, ‘China, who knows’ |

Perdue on trade: Pass USMCA, Japan expected, ‘China, who knows’

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Tuesday that Congress should pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, that he expects Japan to agree to an early harvest for agriculture in trade negotiations, and that he does not know what will happen with the China negotiations.

In a speech to Farm Credit executives, Perdue repeated previous statements that Congress should pass the USMCA because it is an improvement on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

He also repeated previous statements that southern fruit and vegetable producers should not oppose USMCA on the grounds that it does not include provisions to protect growers from seasonal surges of imports. Perdue said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer tried but failed to get Mexico to agree to a seasonal surges provision, and that the agreement would help other sectors in agriculture.

USMCA “does not go backwards” on fruit and vegetable provisions, he said.

Perdue said he would “love” Congress to finish USMCA before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, but that the timing is up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Perdue said he believes that the Democrats’ objections can be addressed without reopening the agreement.

Japanese officials have said they will negotiate on trade after their elections to be concluded shortly, and U.S. officials have said, “We’re going to hold you to that,” Perdue said.

The United States is the best customer for Japanese products and should give the United States the same trade access it has given other countries and the European Union, he said. (Perdue did not mention that the United States would have gotten that access to the Japanese market if President Donald Trump had not withdrawn from the Trans Pacific Partnership and it had been approved.)

“On China — who knows?” Perdue said to the Farm Credit executives.

U.S. negotiators were making progress but “hardliners” convinced President Xi Jinping to back off. Perdue said he believes that negotiations with China will be restarted shortly and that the final agreement will have long term “systemic changes” in the way China does business.

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