Thune: Free Trade Agreements needed for ag

U.S. Senator John Thune from South Dakota told U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai in a hearing on Wednesday the agriculture industry needs more new Free Trade Agreements.

“You say we’ve got a different approach to trade and I understand that approach is grounded in things other than market access, but market access is what our farmers and ranchers are looking for to open up the markets and get the trade deficit back to a trade surplus.”

Thune called Free Trade Agreements with the European Union and the United Kingdom low hanging fruit. Tai said there are no easy FTAs.

“I don’t know if you follow, but the UK and Canada have been negotiating an FTA they stopped negotiating, because the UK won’t talk ag market access,” she said. “In the last years of the Trump administration, in those negotiations, the UK had refused to put ag market access on the table.”

She said ag market access has traditionally frustrated efforts at large FTA-like exercises with the European Union and the administration is concerned about the ag trade deficit.

“Secretary Vilsack and I know, along with our famers, we need to be able to diversify our export opportunities, because we’re at a lot of risk. We are working very hard to do that.”

Tai said the Biden administration cares about farmers and ranchers, but Thune said it’s a challenge to convince agriculture that’s the case when tariff and non-tariff barriers aren’t being addressed in the trade agenda.

Tai testified on the Biden administration’s trade agenda in front of the Senate Finance Committee.

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