by Sabrina Halvorson
The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is keeping specialty crops in focus for trade deals and working on disputes under the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA). Chief Agricultural Negotiator Doug McKalip touched on those and several other topics while speaking at the Agri-Pulse Food and Ag Summit West, held in Sacramento, California. As for specialty crops, he said the importance of the industry isn’t lost on the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.
“It is a major area of emphasis for USTR and for the White House to ensure that trade is reaching everybody and to make sure that every commodity is benefiting from the promise of trade,” he said. “We have a rallying cry in our office and that is that there is no marketplace around the globe that is too small to spend time trying to open up that marketplace to US farmers. And there is no commodity too small by volume for us not to spend time and effort trying to open up marketplaces around the globe for those commodities as well. That goes for organics. It goes for biofuels. It goes for all kinds of specialty crops, fruit, and vegetables, et cetera.”
During his comments, McKalip discussed Mexico’s refusal of biotech corn and the USTR’s formal dispute over the issue. In March, the United States requested and held technical consultations with Mexico regarding its biotechnology measures under the USMCA SPS chapter, but the consultations did not resolve the matter. On June 2, the USTR requested dispute settlement consultations with Mexico under the USMCA.
“They have not been following sound regulatory processes,” McKalip said. “They’ve not been following science. And as a result, it’s important for the US to stand up for the correct scientific processes that were signed onto as part of USMCA.”
He talked about the issue of dairy trade with Canada as well. Earlier this year, the US disputed Canada’s dairy tariff-rate quota (TRQ) allocation measures. Back in 2021, a USMCA panel found that Canada’s allocation measures did not coincide with its USMCA obligations. Canada did make changes to the measures; however, the US says they still do not meet the USMA requirements.
“In response to that case, Canada has still not provided meaningful market access to dairy farmers from the United States,” he said. “Our second case will focus specifically on their existing shortcomings and where Canada has failed to provide meaningful retail and market access.” According to the USTR’s office, in May 2022, the United States requested consultations with Canada to address its updated dairy TRQ allocation measures. In December of that year, the US again requested consultations with Canada after finding “additional areas of deep concern” with Canada’s dairy TRQ policies. Canada and the US held consultations in January but were not able to resolve the matter. The dispute settlement panel is expected to issue a report later this year.
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.
Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.