By James Hoagland, Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement
This week, Chief Agricultural Negotiator Islam Siddiqui addressed the California Agricultural Trade Export Council via videoconference and updated its members on USTR’s ongoing negotiations around the world and how increasing exports support approximately 1 million jobs for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural exporters around the United States.
Ambassador Siddiqui first addressed developments surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. With respect to Japan’s upcoming entry into negotiations, the Ambassador emphasized Japan’s readiness to subject all products, including agricultural products, to tariff negotiations in the pursuit of a high-standard, comprehensive TPP agreement. He underscored the important market-opening implications of Japan’s participation in the TPP for American farmers and ranchers. Progress has also been made in the TPP negotiations to develop mechanisms to resolve specific issues surrounding sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.
Ambassador Siddiqui also spoke to members about the upcoming first round of negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), set to begin on the week of July 8th. He explained the immense advantages for American farmers in creating a comprehensive trade agreement with Europe, through eliminating tariffs, reducing and simplifying customs procedures and eliminating “behind-the-border” trade barriers. The Ambassador also discussed various new proposals in the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding customs procedures and obstacles to trade, as well as efforts to bring more members into the WTO. Finally, the Ambassador touched on discussions aimed towards resolving disputes with Russia, China and Brazil over SPS measures, poultry exports and cotton subsidies respectively.
The Ambassador’s remarks followed speeches from Karen Ross of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Phil Carsting of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Kish Rajan of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. Today’s Forum reflected the USTR’s mission to enforce current agreements, negotiate new agreements and make sure American farmers and ranchers have a level playing field for their products. According to the USDA‘s Economic Research Service, 2012 was a record year for U.S. agricultural exports ($145 billion), and through the Obama Adminstration’s comprehensive trade agenda, we will continue to support further agricultural exports and American jobs.