Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) released his hold on the nomination of Gregory Doud to be President Donald Trump’s chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative after receiving assurances that Flake's concerns would be addressed over a proposal involving U.S. import protections on seasonal produce in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
In November, Flake placed the hold in response to the Trump Administration’s proposal to impose trade remedy laws against imported goods from Mexico -- an effort intended to protect certain U.S. agricultural produce from cheaper imports from Mexico. Flake argued that the proposal would decrease consumer choice and lead to higher prices for produce. The decision to lift the hold came after Flake secured a written commitment from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, that his concerns would be addressed. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer also expressed his willingness to consider Flake’s concerns.
"Given the importance of U.S. agriculture and what's at stake for them in the NAFTA negotiations, I am pleased that this nomination can move forward," Flake said.
Doud has served in a number of capacities related to domestic and international trade policy, working at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA), U.S. Wheat Associates, Commodity Markets Council and Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry.
The Senate finance panel cleared Doud unanimously in October, but his nomination has been held up since Flake placed his hold last November. It is uncertain when the Senate will vote on his nomination, but it is expected to go smoothly, as Doud is a widely supported choice and the position has remained empty for months.
Nearly 80 agricultural groups signed onto a letter to each U.S. senator earlier in the week urging Senate confirmation of Doud and other nominees to the USTR Office. "There is a full trade agenda facing U.S. agriculture, and Ambassador Lighthizer needs a full team at USTR," USA Rice chief operating officer Bob Cummings said.
NCBA president Craig Uden applauded the move and asked the full Senate to act quickly. "With talks continuing on NAFTA, the Korea-U.S. trade agreement and access to many other markets still up in the air, it's imperative that the U.S. Senate now move as quickly as possible to confirm Doud's nomination," he said.
NCBA distributed mock "Missing Person" fliers featuring Doud's likeness at the NAFTA negotiations in Montreal, Que.
Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, also urged the Senate to move quickly to confirm Doud. “This is a critical time for U.S. agriculture, so swift action is what we need. Right now, our government is negotiating major agreements that will affect our industry for years to come but doing so with a major vacancy unfilled at USTR,” he said.