In a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations USTR Ambassador Tai outlined key major objectives for 2023. Her remarks did not include direct references to agriculture, food or food security. It did focus upon changes in domestic policy and international commitments to labor rights, fighting climate change, steel and aluminum trade, advanced chip and computer investment, supply chains, and a host of new forums for discussion with international partners. These new forms, such as climate change discussions, will certainly impact agriculture, but such changes were not outlined. Perhaps the administration will be more specific in recommending provisions within the upcoming farm bill.
As an example, Ambassador Tai stated: “That is why the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework is not a traditional trade deal anchored on tariff reduction and elimination. It is not the TPP. Instead, the IPEF aims to deliver real opportunities for our people now by focusing on worker standards, the environment, science-based and transparent regulatory systems, and an inclusive digital economy.” How any new agricultural science-based and transparent regulatory system fits into the existing SPS agreement, WOAH (old OIE) operations and Codex, is unclear.
There appears limited interest in altering the current trade agreements and constraints on agriculture today including China’s 25% retaliation tariff on U.S. pork; and lack of enforcement of existing agreements (the year-old pork access agreement with India saw sales of $17,000 this year). Since the administration declined to pursue fast track authority, no new FTAs are expected, and policy changes pursued by USTR will be subject to legal and financial constraints imposed by a split Congress.
Next year looks to be one with more constraints than opportunities in the international market. Trade talks with China, Kenya, the UK and others are unlikely to result in large export increases, while policy changes related to climate change and labor policy may force changes in food and feed production, pricing and trade. – Richard Fritz