Tai meets with USMCA-interested ag groups, criticizes CAFTA-DR agreement
Trade Representative Katherine Tai met virtually Monday with U.S. agriculture organizations that have strong interests in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade and today gave a speech to the Washington Conference of the Americas in which she discussed the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement.
In a readout, USTR said Tai met “to discuss the Biden-Harris administration’s trade agenda and to hear from the organizations on specific trade priorities for their members. The ambassador expressed her desire to support U.S. agriculture producers in a worker-centered trade policy, and she committed to staying in close communication.”
USTR said Tai met with the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, which has said growers in the Southeast are subject to surges of tomatoes from Mexico; the National Potato Council, which has recently resolved an issue with Mexico that should allow the exportation of U.S. potatoes to all of Mexico; the National Milk Producers Federation, which has pushed USTR to ensure that Canada complies with the dairy provisions in the USMCA; and the Northwest Horticultural Council, which has emphasized the importance of market access for apples and other products from the Pacific Northwest.
In a statement after the meeting, National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern and Randy Mooney, NMPF’s chairman, said they “offered to closely collaborate with Ambassador Tai and the entire Biden administration on trade in order to strengthen the health of the U.S. dairy industry to allow for further expansion of the hundreds of thousands of dairy-reliant jobs across the country.”
“From farmers to farm workers, dairy manufacturers, milk haulers, and port workers – all these are just some of the Americans that are increasingly reliant on dairy exports for their prosperity,” Mulhern said. “Expanding access for made-in-America dairy products and eliminating the non-tariff trade barriers that impede them is fundamental to supporting the U.S. dairy industry and the millions more who depend on a robust dairy supply chain.”
Mulhern said he had emphasized the need for new market opportunities, noting in particular the importance of enforcement of existing trade agreements such as ensuring Canada meets its trade obligations; countering European Union attempts to misuse common food names through inappropriate geographical indication rules; engaging with Mexico to ensure a normal flow of trade; and concluding new market expanding trade agreements.
National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles said in an email, “It was a great opportunity to thank Ambassador Tai and the USTR staff for all their work in pushing the Mexico fresh potato dispute toward a final resolution. We share the intention to reinstate full U.S. market access in the next few months, to the benefit of both countries.”
In her speech today to the 51st annual Washington Conference of the Americas, which was started by the late David Rockefeller, Tai said the USMCA “includes the most comprehensive, enforceable labor and environmental standards of any U.S. trade agreement – and, I would argue, any trade agreement.”
She added, “We must invest and commit to the agreement’s full and successful implementation. I will enforce the new standards, follow through on our commitments, and use the agreement to ensure that our partners, Canada and Mexico, do, too.
She also pointed out that the free trade agreement between the United States, Central America and the Dominican Republic “removed tariffs on all but a few sensitive agricultural products.” But she added that “significant shortcomings in our trade infrastructure and policy implementation have prevented the agreements from generating the greatest benefit for the region” and “my team and I are working to fulfill our responsibility to thoughtfully engage our counterparts across the region and identify areas where trade policy can help working people.”
In conclusion, she said, “The fact is that the hemisphere is our home; the countries of the Americas are our neighbors, and our futures are interdependent. Our success is based on the principle that no one should be left behind. For these reasons, we will also use trade policy to address racial equity and support underserved communities. We need to translate that concept into meaningful change for farmers, ranchers, factory workers, micro and small entrepreneurs, and families.”
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