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Tariff Reducing Negotiations Absent, Biden Administration Looks at Supply Chain Initiatives Instead of Free-Trade Talks

Late last week, DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported that, “More than two years into the Biden administration, the country’s top trade negotiators have no negotiations going on with any country to reduce tariffs for U.S. products.

“That was perhaps the biggest point highlighted by U.S. Ambassador Katherine Tai’s testimony Thursday before a contentious hearing at the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.

“Both Democrats and Republicans criticized Tai at the Senate hearing on agricultural issues and the lack of any moves to negotiate trade agreements.”

The DTN article noted that, “Tai indicated USTR is holding ‘robust discussions‘ with Kenya, the United Kingdom and possibly Ukraine. Still, when asked about efforts to reduce tariffs for U.S. products overseas, Tai said the U.S. right now is not focusing on expanded market access or tariff reduction.”

Clayton pointed out that, “Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, raised concerns over the state of talks with Mexico over biotech corn. Grassley said he was glad that USTR had started technical consultations, though it was two years after Mexico first set its decree to ban imports of biotech corn. ‘This seems to be an easy one and exactly what we included in the dispute resolution process with USMCA,’ Grassley said. He added, ‘And Mexico being the No. 1 purchaser of U.S. corn, farmers deserve a sense of urgency from your administration on this.’

“Grassley pushed Tai to move ahead with a dispute resolution case against Mexico on April 7 when the consultation process is supposed to end.”

Bloomberg writer Eric Martin reported last week that,

The Biden administration hasn’t taken up any free-trade talks, opting to pursue its goals through initiatives that focus on issues like supply chains and the environment and don’t require congressional approval. Those include the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity.

Martin added that, “More than a dozen Republican members of Ways and Means wrote to Biden on Thursday urging him to outline a ‘clear trade agenda,’ saying that the lack of new opportunities is putting the US at a disadvantage.”

Padilla, Samantha, Danielle J. Ufer, Stephen Morgan, and Noah Link. March 2023. U.S. Export Competitiveness in Select Crop Markets, ERR-313, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

In a report this month, the USDA’s Economic Research Service pointed out that, “The United States’ involvement in trade agreements, particularly with emerging markets, contributes to its export competitiveness.

“However, from 2012 through 2020, the United States did not establish any new free trade agreements (FTAs), potentially limiting U.S. export opportunities in some emerging markets while other competitors signed multiple FTAs during that same period.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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