NGFA hopes to collaborate with White House on trade

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) is looking forward to working with the Trump administration on trade and other issues that concern the animal feed, grain and agriculture sectors, according to Randy Gordon, the association’s president.

Christopher Halloran, Bigstockphoto.com
Christopher Halloran, Bigstockphoto.com

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) is looking forward to working with the Trump administration on trade and other issues that concern the animal feed, grain and agriculture sectors, according to Randy Gordon, the association’s president.

In a phone interview with WATT Global Media, Gordon said NGFA wants to be a partner with the White House on trade negotiations, and welcomes the re-evaluation of regulations President Donald Trump has promised.

“We want to work as a food and agriculture group with the new administration in providing ideas on ways to update and modernize NAFTA … as well as re-engage on Asia-Pacific trade,” Gordon said.

“We need to work within the political dynamics that exist today with the new administration,” he added. “Trade is important to agriculture, and we want to be a proactive partner in working with the administration to achieve even greater growth.”

Modernizing NAFTA

NGFA wants to see the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) continued, modernized and updated.

“It is very positive that the president didn’t withdraw from NAFTA,” Gordon said. “A withdrawal would have increased tariffs on imports and invited retaliation from” Mexico and Canada.

While the renegotiation of NAFTA opens up the possibilities of change, Gordon said it’s also a good time to concentrate on what works well in the agreement.

“In one sense, it’s an opportunity to work to further improve on what we think is already a pretty good agreement,” he said. “NAFTA was very positive in terms of eliminating tariffs on grain-based and agricultural trade.”

According to NGFA, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have grown from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38.6 billion in 2015. The U.S. exports an average of $3.7 billion of corn and corn products to Canada and Mexico. In 2015, the U.S. exported $438 million to Canada and $2.44 billion to Mexico. Wheat exports were 500 percent higher in the 10 years after NAFTA than the 10 years preceding. Mexico is the second largest market for U.S. wheat, importing $1 billion per year.

But, Gordon said, there have been a lot of improvements to trade agreements since NAFTA came into force in 1994, and that some of the elements of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have “positive relevance” to NAFTA, including the Rapid Response Mechanism and biotechnology rules.

TPP’s Rapid Response Mechanism allows exporting countries to dispute export restrictions so as to guarantee that “imports are carried out without undue delay” and ensure that food inspections are “limited to what is reasonable and necessary, and what is rationally related to the available science.”

TPP was the first trade agreement to include rules on biotechnology, and Gordon said he would like to see countries take a “more collaborative approach on that issue.”

He also said new trade agreements offer the opportunity to further align sanitary and phytosanitary requirements with U.S. trading partners.

Asia-Pacific trade

While Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the TPP, he is still pursuing bilateral trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The Asia-Pacific countries are extremely important to U.S. trade,” Gordon said. “As an organization that is very much based on free-market principles, we would love to see trade discussions with as many countries as we can in opening markets around the world.”

NGFA is open to the bilateral discussions preferred by Trump to multilateral negotiations.

“The administration has made no secret of its desire to try a bilateral approach. We want to respect that if that’s the direction the administration wants to pursue,” Gordon said. “Trade is a two-way street, and it enhances food security and stabilizes the world politically.”

Re-examining regulations

In January, Trump signed a “one-in, two-out” executive order that requires federal agencies to cut two existing regulations for every new regulation they implement. His campaign promise to cut down on regulations is one that appealed to many of his voters, Gordon said, and NGFA welcomes the approach.

“A relook at regulation and the cost it imposes on the economy is very much warranted,” Gordon said. “A lot of groups in ag welcome the fresh look at the regulatory approach that’s occurring within this administration.”

Some regulations that affect the agriculture industry and the economy are outdated and should be re-examined, Gordon said.

“We really need to get back to a situation where there is a hard look at regulations that are outdated, aren’t serving an important purpose,” he said. “It’s long overdue that we have a real serious look at some of the regulatory issues affecting the economy.”

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