Anti-trade sentiment among U.S. voters – fanned by rhetoric in the 2016 presidential campaign – could work to disrupt U.S. efforts to restore trade with China in chicken leg quarters and paws, according to Jim Sumner, president, USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, speaking at the council’s annual meeting.

Anti-trade sentiment in the U.S., Sumner said, could jeopardize expected U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rulemaking proposals to recognize the equivalency of China’s poultry inspection system and approve the shipment of cooked chicken for sale on the U.S. market. China’s lack of access to the U.S. market for its poultry is believed to be at the root of much of China’s ongoing trade disputes with the U.S., including punitive tariffs and a ban on U.S. poultry.

Referring to the expected proposal to allow Chinese imports of cooked chicken into the U.S., he said, “If the proposed rulemaking comes out [in the Federal Register], it raises the question of what we are facing this November in the U.S. presidential election and with the changing Congress. What is going to be the reaction there?”

Pew polling earlier in 2016 showed most Democrats supporting trade (60 percent), but anti-trade sentiments surging among Republicans (with 40 percent calling free trade a good thing vs. 52 percent seeing it as a bad thing). Supporters of presidential candidate Donald Trump are especially anti-trade (67 percent viewed it as negative vs. 27 percent positive).

“It’s not just the Trump factor,” Sumner said. “The current sentiment among U.S. consumers is basically anti-trade. I am not sure how this happened but consumer polling around the United States shows that they think that ‘trade’ is a dirty, five-letter word.”

He urged action by the poultry industry to educate consumers and elected officials about the importance of trade to the poultry industry and general economy.

Trump has called for a 45 percent tax on all Chinese imports and a 35 percent tariff on all goods imported from Mexico.