USTR Tai: “Our work is focused on... market access for our agricultural producers”

The lead trade negotiator will be back on Capitol Hill today answering questions from House lawmakers.

A glimpse of trade progress in the new administration was seen when Katherine Tai went before a Senate committee Wednesday, in an hours-long hearing.

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing, lawmakers questioned the U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, on her plans for new and existing trade deals.

She says her office is working to expand ag market access: “Our work is focused on looking at, creating, maintaining reliable, transparent market access for our agricultural producers.”

Several Senators, including South Dakota, Republican John Thune, pressed the representative on plans to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I think that we’ve seen through our recent history that while there was bipartisan support for TPP there was also bipartisan opposition for TPP, and really what we are looking for are trade policy, multilateral ones, looking at China competition that are going to have the broad bipartisan support that we need,” Tai explains.

In a short exchange with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, she committed to address non-tariff barriers with Mexico.

“In December, the Mexican President issued a decree banning glyphosate and GMO corn in the Mexican diets by 2024. What do you think of that?,” the Senator asked. “Will you raise these concerns at the upcoming USMCA meeting and to pursuing enforcement actions if these issues remain unresolved?”

Tai responded, “yes.”

Senate Ag Committee Chair, Debbie Stabenow also questioned Tai on phytosanitary requirements that are currently holding up negotiations with the European Union.

“The plan is to address these concerns by engaging and I know there are concerns about these types of barriers in a lot of different economies and it depends on whether we are using free trade agreement tools, regional trade agreement tools, or WTO tools,” according to Tai.

So far, Tai has not appointed a Chief Agricultural Negotiator, but during the hearing she said staffing is a priority and she hopes to have the position filled soon.


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