Both U.S. Department of Agriculture trade undersecretary Ted McKinney and chief agricultural trade negotiator Gregg Doud said passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is an absolute necessity for agriculture, as the duo testified before a House Agricultural subcommittee on Tuesday morning.
“The President has a robust trade agenda that includes many potential economic opportunities for farmers, ranchers, workers, and agribusinesses, including negotiations for trade agreements with Japan, the European Union, and the United Kingdom upon its exit from the European Union,” Doud said. “To advance the rest of the trade agenda, however, passage of USMCA is critical.”
In response to questioning, Doud added that with the plans to move forward in many different places around the world, inaction on USMCA “halts the entire trade agenda of this administration.”
“No passage is simply not an option,” McKinney added in his comments to the House Agriculture Committee members.
McKinney said in terms of the importance of USMCA is must get done as it sends a message to the world and those many countries we do want some kind of an agreement that we’re willing to negotiate. He said many aspects of USMCA, especially those chapters on the sanitary and phytosanitary issues, offer a template to model in other agreement. McKinney said SPS issues are often an important topic when visiting other countries. In future agreements USMCA’s chapter on SPS is “not as easy as cut and paste,” but it’s offers a great start.
Rep. Jim Costa (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Livestock and Foreign Agriculture subcommittee, said in opening comments, “I am glad that the President has abandoned his ill-conceived plan to put a new tariff on Mexico. I, however, remain concerned that this whole exercise has slowed down the positive momentum that existed after the Administration finally agreed to lift the 232 tariffs on Mexico and Canada only a few weeks ago. I hope there won’t be any more surprise policy changes from the Administration if we want to continue productive conversations on the U.S.-Canada-Mexico-Agreement.”
In regard to further details about President Trump’s tweet promising Mexico’s desire to purchase additional agricultural goods, neither McKinney or Doud had any further details to offer. Doud’s response was simply: “I don’t have details to that regard.” Meanwhile, McKinney said USDA anticipates additional sales in terms of restored and reinvigorated sales to Mexico following the resolution of the 232 tariffs and signing of USMCA. He did not have specific commodity purchase promised as inferred by President Trump.
Costa added that in his opinion, “USMCA, under the current environment, that the President is largely responsible for, will be difficult to pass this year at best.”
Meanwhile, both the ranking member of the full committee – Rep. Mike Coanway (R., Texas) – and ranking member of the subcommittee Rep. David Rouzer (R., N.C.) called on House Democratic leadership to bring USMCA up for a vote, especially now that they’ve got the International Trade Commission’s report noting USMCA will added $2.2 billion in increased agricultural exports.
The same day as the hearing, over 950 agricultural and food groups voiced support for USMCA passage.
“Rather than spew platitudes about the importance of free trade to American agriculture, it’s time for the House Democratic Leadership to get serious about the clear win that sits before them – the USMCA agreement. Today’s hearing further underscored that ratifying USMCA is critically important to America’s farmers, ranchers, and dairymen. With the ITC report in hand, Speaker Pelosi should bring USMCA up for a vote as quickly as possible,” Conaway said in a statement following the hearing.