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Global trade headlines USGC board meetingGlobal trade headlines USGC board meeting

Former USTR Carla Hills discusses importance of resolving tariff issue "before it grows into a full-fledged tariff war."

July 31, 2018

3 Min Read
Global trade headlines USGC board meeting
Ambassador Carla Hills, a former U.S. Trade Representative, shared her perspective on how agriculture fits in today’s global trade puzzle at the U.S. Grains Council’s 58th Annual Board of Delegates meeting.US Grains Council

Navigating the new global trade landscape while maintaining and strengthening relationships with key partners, including Mexico and China, was front and center as the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC) 58th Annual Board of Delegates Meeting began July 30 in Denver, Colo.

The meeting kicked off with keynote speaker Carla Hills, former U.S. Trade Representative ambassador, who shared her perspective on how agriculture fits in today’s global trade puzzle.

“Global trade is the most effective development tool we have,” Hills said. “It enlarges economic opportunities for poor countries. It is not just a humanitarian effort; it creates tomorrow’s trade partners. One might call it an act of enlightened self-interest -- but these are turbulent times. The U.S. government has always used diplomacy to advance the well-being of our own nation, but it worries me ... that we are turning inward.”

Hills, now chair and chief executive officer of Hills & Company International Consultants, served as USTR as a member of President George H.W. Bush’s Cabinet. In that role, she negotiated and concluded the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“Knowing what NAFTA accomplished is critical to making sound decisions about the agreement. Today, 14 million jobs depend on trade with Mexico and Canada. Today, one-third of our total global trade is with our northern and southern neighbors. Our agricultural exports to Canada are up 300%, and Mexico is up 500%. Last year, we sold 14 million tons of corn to Mexico," Hills told the audience of farmers and agribusiness delegates.

"Hopefully, we can find a way to resolve this tariff battle before it grows into a full-fledged tariff war and complete the NAFTA renegotiation that means so much to our economy," she said. "Once those customers are lost, they will be difficult to recover. We have no time to waste.”

Before Hills spoke, Colorado agriculture commissioner Don Brown, an active member of the Colorado Corn Growers Assn. and the National Corn Growers Assn., welcomed USGC members and delegates to Denver.

Zhenglin Wei, counsellor for agricultural, economic and commercial affairs for the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, spoke during the same session about the status and future of the agricultural and trade relationship between the U.S. and China. He said the current tensions are worrisome, because trade between the two countries is beneficial for the well-being of both countries and the prosperity and stability of the world economy.

Dan Pearson, principal at Pearson International Trade Services and former chairman of the U.S. International Trade Commission, addressed the current political environment on global trade, especially regarding NAFTA and China trade relations and the economics of better trade policies.

Erich Kuss, director of the Mexico City, Mexico, Agricultural Trade Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, offered an update on the current agricultural trade environment and political situation in Mexico after the recent election of President-Elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Attendees also heard a lunchtime update from Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, who discussed the importance of rebuilding U.S. consensus among farmers and ranchers for trade and activities of that coalition.

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