AVENTURA, FLA. — Even with recent progress in trade negotiations with China, a “lot of work” remains on trade deals, including passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada (U.S.M.C.A.) agreement, Stephen L. Censky, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said in opening remarks at the International Sweetener Colloquium held Feb. 25 in Aventura.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us to get it (U.S.M.C.A.) passed,” Mr. Censky said. “We’re very excited about it. It’s a big deal for agriculture overall and for the economy in general.”
He cited language in the agreement that allowed U.S. wheat to be exported to Canada based on its actual quality rather than being downgraded to feed wheat. At the same time, he said the United States was “moving aggressively” to remove retaliatory tariffs on some U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico.
Mr. Censky noted the postponement of a March 1 deadline on higher U.S. tariffs on imports from China as the result of recent progress in trade talks between the two countries.
“We want some robust purchase commitments from China, not just soybeans,” Mr. Censky said, citing the need to expand meat, pet food, dairy and other exports to China. He said an agreement also must achieve structural reform on trade barriers that have affected U.S. exports, and that China needs a new process to speed up approval of bioengineered products that in some cases lingered five to seven years.
“China has gotten away with a lot for a long time,” Mr. Censky said, noting that achieving a sufficient outcome for agriculture was important “but not enough.”
The United States was looking at trade deals with “a lot of countries,” Mr. Censky said, including Japan, the European Union and the United Kingdom.
“The rest of the world is striking F.T.A.s,” he said. “We’ll lose out if we don’t.”
Talks with Japan are hoped to begin in the next few weeks or months, and it is hoped “something can be achieved very quickly,” Mr. Censky said. Japan was the “crown jewel” of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (from which the United States withdrew early in the Trump administration), and the United States wanted to get a trade deal “at least as good as T.P.P. or more so.”
Progress has been slow in setting up talks with the European Union, Mr. Censky said, because the United States wants agriculture to be part of the agreement, but the E.U. does not.
The status of trade talks with the United Kingdom depend in part on terms of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the E.U. “if there is a Brexit agreement,” he said.
Finally, Mr. Censky said, the U.S.D.A.’s goal to implement the 2018 farm bill “as quickly and as prudently as we can” was delayed by the 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government.