The Trump Administration included a range of agricultural demands in its list of formal objectives for trade talks with the European Union. That list came out late last week when EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom was in Washington to visit with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Malmstrom reiterated last week that the EU will not be negotiating on agriculture. However, Reuters notes that if a wide-ranging trade deal is to be accomplished, something will have to give. The administration wants to bring down tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. agricultural goods that are a result of European skepticism about American agricultural practices, especially biotechnology.
Agriculture has been a big sticking point in recent attempts to establish a trade deal between the U.S. and EU. Malmstrom told reports after the meeting with Lighthizer that the parameters of the discussions haven’t been decided yet. The USTR push to crank up full-fledged negotiations comes after a meeting in December with ag groups that pushed hard for their products to be included in the discussion. Now that the U.S. objectives have been made public, the USTR could be ready to start negotiations as soon as 30 days from now.
The government shutdown is also hitting Lighthizer’s office this week. So far, he has refused to say how it will affect operations. Politico sources in the administration and industry sources all say the office would likely start furloughing employees as early yesterday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the shutdown likely won’t affect a visit by the Chinese Vice Premiere which is set for the end of the month. A Chinese delegation is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C., on January 30th to continue trade talks.
It’s possible the shutdown will affect the USTR’s preparations for other major trade talks, including negotiations with Japan that could begin as soon as January 20th. A Japanese official tells Politico that there’s been no agreement to this point on a start date for negotiations and that the shutdown could temporarily stall the start of those important trade talks.
Source: NAFB News Service