US farm, food groups urge Congress to pass authority for new trade deals

WASHINGTON, March 16 (Reuters) – More than 50 U.S. farm and food groups urged Congress on Thursday to pass new legislation allowing the United States to negotiate more free trade deals, arguing that without them American agriculture is lagging behind. behind its global competitors.

The groups, which represent a wide variety of US agricultural exports, from corn to dairy, meat, produce and other products, said efforts by President Joe Biden’s administration to open up new agricultural export markets fell short. to overcome the growing web of forged free trade agreements. by the European Union, China and other countries.

“Unfortunately, the United States is falling behind. Between 2010 and 2020, China and the European Union enjoyed more than twice the benefits of tariff reductions from trade agreements than the United States,” the groups wrote.

The groups said it has been more than a decade since a new free trade agreement was signed that opens up new markets for American agricultural and food products.

They cited a recent Department of Agriculture forecast that the US is poised to become a net importer of food by 2023, with an expected food trade deficit of $14.5 billion.

“This should be a wake-up call to America’s diminishing economic influence in the world due to our inability to advance new tariff-reduction trade deals,” they wrote, calling on lawmakers to pass legislation for the new Authority. of Commercial Promotion.

The TPA, or “fast track” negotiating authority, sets the priorities for trade agreements and allows them to be negotiated and executed by the office of the US Trade Representative with only a vote for or against Congress. The TPA was last used to renegotiate a new North American trade agreement implemented in 2020, but the authority expired in July 2021.

The Biden administration has indicated no interest in renewing the TPA or negotiating new comprehensive free trade agreements with tariff reductions. Instead, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai has sought more limited trade agreements focused on labor, environmental, and digital trade standards, such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, and industry-specific agreements with the Union. Union on steel, aluminum and aircraft.

Such efforts “can be very constructive” if they address specific non-tariff barriers to trade, such as food safety, the groups said, but added that the United States should pursue “new free trade agreements that reduce tariffs.”

The letter from the National Corn Growers Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, the Meat Institute of North America and others comes as Tai begins his third year in office and expresses a level of frustration among exporters over the access to new markets.

The China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade deal in Asia came into force last year, five years after the Trump administration withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which includes many of the same countries. The group said this has helped China displace the United States as the EU’s biggest trading partner.


But the US Trade Representative’s office says it is working to open up new markets for US farm products, saying in a fact sheet Wednesday that opportunities for beef exports have increased in the past year. beef from the US to Pakistan, reopened US Union seafood exports after a 10-year hiatus, expanded export access for US potatoes to Mexico and secured a 70% cut in Indian tariffs on American pecans.

USTR is also investigating trade dispute cases over dairy access to Canada and genetically modified corn access to Mexico.

The USTR announced Thursday that it will conduct an initial round of negotiations toward a strategic trade and investment partnership agreement with Kenya that will include an agricultural component, as well as chapters on labor and regulatory practices, environmental standards, and digital commerce.

Reporting by David Lawder; Edited by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio

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