USDA Undersecretary for Trade Alexis Taylor is leading an agriculture trade mission to Japan this week as one way to boost farm exports, amid the president’s continued reluctance to do free trade deals.
Taylor is leading officials from state agriculture departments, farm groups and agribusinesses looking to expand farm exports to Japan that hit a record $14.6 billion last year.
Taylor touched on the growth potential for U.S. Ag exports through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework at her Senate confirmation hearing; “I think there are huge opportunities for our agriculture sector in this part of the world. They have a growing, fast growing, middle class. There is a lot of purchasing power that is coming on line.”
But while good, many ag lawmakers argue it’s not enough. South Dakota’s John Thune said; “Under this administration, there are no trade agreements under discussion, of efforts underway to meaningfully increase market access for U.S. ag products—that is a problem.”
But one which Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack told lawmakers in April, the administration is still doing without new FTAs. Vilsack; “Tariff reductions and expansion of the safeguard in Japan has led to more beef exports, tariff reductions on corn, wheat and frozen pork in Vietnam, tariff reductions in the Philippines for corn, pork and poultry, tariff reductions to expand opportunities and blending requirements for expansion of ethanol in Panama, expanded poultry access in the Middle East.”
Vilsack says all of that contributed to back-to-back record agriculture exports the last two years.
But when asked the importance of the president asking for Trade Promotion Authority to speed legally binding deals through Congress, Vilsack argued FTA’s just aren’t widely popular—especially outside agriculture.