U.S. Trade Rep. Katherine Tai Delivers Annual Report
The U.S. Trade Representative has released the annual report with 517 pages detailing trade barriers and foreign obstacles.
Katherine Tai was on the Hill this week, testifying before both the Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. During the conversation, she acknowledged the importance of agriculture.
“I think our American farmers are some of the most admirable Americans and hardest workers that I’ve ever met. Market access for our farmers is absolutely important to me and important to our ability to conduct policy.”
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley pressed Ambassador Tai on biotechnology crop access in the European Union, which she says has traditionally been a difficult issue to negotiate.
“I do believe that the current disruptions to trade heated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may provide us new opportunities and windows for collaboration with the EU, which we’re also seeking to capitalize on.”
Senate Ag Committee Chair, Debbie Stabenow questioned implementation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
“Canada promised increased access to its market form in dairy farmers. And until we were able to accomplish that and we will continue to pursue the tools and avenues available to us under USMCA hard tools and soft tools. I have a very collaborative and good relationship with my Canadian counterpart. And I have raised these issues in my conversations with her.”
Tai also told the committee she spoke to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack this week about USMCA implementation in Mexico, including access for American potatoes.
“Secretary Vilsack and I have been working hand in glove on the Mexico agricultural challenges, and we have been pursuing a strategy of cooperation and consultation with our counterparts in Mexico. I do think that at this point, we are reassessing where we are and the kinds of tools that we need to bring to bear.”
Vacant staff positions were another area of concern for several senators, including South Dakota’s John Thune.
“Just when does the Administration plan to nominate the chief agricultural negotiator?”
“We have nominated one, very grateful for Elaine Trevino. So we’ll be working with her in another capacity that she will take on in the Biden administration. At the moment. I’m working very hard with Administration to name a new chief agricultural negotiator nominee as soon as possible. I want to assure you hear that your interests and mine are absolutely aligned.”
Travino withdrew her application from the position after the nomination process stalled earlier last month, leaving the U.S. Trade Representative position vacant. USDA has also not filled the Under Secretary spot.
The Administration has also faced pressure for focusing on workers and sustainability in the Indo-Pacific framework, instead of prioritizing market access for American producers.