Senate Finance holds friendly hearing with McKalip
The Senate Finance Committee today held a friendly hearing on Doug McKalip, President Biden’s nominee to be chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., did not make any announcement about moving McKalip’s nomination forward, but Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., urged the committee to move the nomination quickly.
Several Senate Republicans also criticized the committee for not putting someone in the position for the past 18 months.
McKalip, who has worked at the Agriculture Department for three decades and is now a senior adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, told the committee he had worked closely with USTR on the negotiations to bring greater market access in Mexico for U.S.-grown potatoes and has been directly involved with Canadian officials on dairy policy.
“This experience has provided me a direct appreciation for the difficult steps and tenacity that we must exhibit to ensure that the promises of past trade agreements are realized,” McKalip said.
“I know that many Americans have grown weary of trade and question whether the promises in various agreements will benefit their bottom line.”
McKalip also said “China has failed to live up to its commitments under the ‘Phase One Agreement.’ As Ambassador [Katherine] Tai works to realign the U.S.-China trade relationship and partners with allies to confront China’s unfair trade policies, I will use my position as chief agricultural negotiator to ensure American farmers and ranchers get a fair deal.”
In an opening statement, Wyden said the Trump administration had “rushed into” the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and with China “grabbed a whole lot of headlines with a flashy new trade deal, but it failed to set up real enforcement and let many of the Chinese government’s key trade rip-offs go unaddressed.”
Wyden and Stabenow both urged McKalip to pay attention to enforcement including unfair competition from foreign products within the United States.
Wyden noted that McKalip “will play a key role” in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and Republicans said the IPEF and other proposed trade agreements should include increases in market access, which the Biden administration has said will not be included. Republicans also questioned how these agreements that do not require Senate approval can be enforced.
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, the ranking member on the committee, said, “Nationally, one in three acres planted in the United States will be exported. But we can sell even more. What is holding us back is, again, a misplaced Biden administration policy: a moratorium on new trade agreements, and limited enforcement of existing agreements.”
“The administration is crystal clear that it prefers to not pursue real trade agreements in favor of something it calls ‘frameworks,’ which lack crucial market access obligations,” Crapo said.
“This is confusing, since market access is the main problem our farmers and ranchers face. A lot of our potential trading partners maintain high agricultural tariffs and regulatory measures that are essentially a guise for protectionism. We need to tear them down.”
McKalip promised Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., that he would work on a country-of-origin labeling program for red meat “to arrive at a policy and approach that can withstand future challenge.” McKalip noted that the had worked on the previous country-of-origin labeling scheme that was later repealed after the United States lost a case against it in the World Trade Organization.
Crapo also said he had listened to music by BoxCartel, a band in which McKalip is the drummer.
“You’re hitting the right notes there,” Crapo said. “With your trade policy experience, I hope that — if confirmed — you’ll also the right hit notes on improving opportunities for our farmers and ranchers.”
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