Doug McKalip, now confirmed as President Biden’s Chief Ag Trade Negotiator with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, faces a huge challenge to expand overseas market access. The issue is not Doug McKalip, who has some 30 years’ experience at USDA, including as an advisor to Secretary Vilsack. It’s whether he can expand market access for ag while hemmed in by a president reluctant to do free trade deals.
Senate Finance’s James Lankford said in July that it’s a problem other Biden appointees have been clear about.
“The very clear message that we’ve heard over and over again is, ‘we’re not going to do trade deals. The president has instructed us that we’re not going to do trade deals.’”
A refrain from U.S. Trade Ambassador Katherine Tai to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. Instead, executive actions like the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which can be undone by future administrations, lack new market access. Yet McKalip claims he’s up to the task.
“Recently at USDA, I helped spearhead negotiations that led to greater market access in Mexico for U.S.-grown potatoes. I’ve also been directly involved in negotiations with my Canadian counterparts on dairy policy. This experience has provided me a direct appreciation for the difficult steps and the tenacity that we must exhibit to ensure that the promises of past trade agreements are fully realized.”
But McKalip told Senate Finance that many Americans have grown “weary” of trade and questioned if those promises will “benefit their bottom line.” He adds that’s why Ambassador Tai is stressing enforcement of existing trade deals like USMCA.