New trade deal in North America gives farmers hope for safer markets

China 24

New trade deal in North America gives farmers hope for safer markets

Agriculture remains at the forefront of the United States-China trade dispute following a range of tariffs and retaliatory measures. A new trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico was largely welcomed by American farmers. Many hope a deal with China will soon follow.

CGTN’s Dan Williams has the story from Wisconsin.

The World Dairy Expo held in Madison, Wisconsin is a celebration of the industry and attracts dairy farmers from across the globe. But this year, the event takes place amidst strained agricultural international relations.

The United States-China trade conflict has brought uncertainty to the industry. Last year, the U.S. exported more than $577 million of dairy products to China making it the third largest market for dairy exports. But that is under threat after China imposed retaliatory tariffs in July.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker remains hopeful of an improved trade deal between the countries but is also keen to emphasize that the state remains open for business.

“We are already the largest state by far in terms of exports into China by any U.S. state. I’ve always said that no matter what happens in Washington, as long as governors and state delegations are visiting Mexico to Canada to China to the U.K., to other places around the world, we’re interested in trade. We’re aggressive about it,” Walker said.

The new trade agreement, reached this week between the United States, Canada and Mexico is largely seen as a step in the right direction by American farmers. But many farmers remain concerned with what appears to be a lack of progress over a deal with China.

In March, the U.S. imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on a number of countries including Europe, Canada and the China. Those countries, along with others, retaliated with tariffs of their own with many targeting agriculture.

In a speech this week, the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence claimed that Beijing was using tariffs to influence the November midterm elections. But Wisconsin dairy farmer Pete Kappelman says the retaliatory tariffs were no surprise.

“It would be kind of expected right. There would be a price to pay to renegotiate. You know it’s not countries that sell product to other countries, its companies and businesses and cooperatives that sell products to other businesses. Now I think the question is how long will I pay more if I am an importer of U.S. product. When do I go looking for something from a different part of the world,” Kappelman said.

In the state of Illinois, Brian Duncan is in the middle of harvest season. Duncan, who is also the Vice President of the Illinois Farm Bureau is also concerned about the long-term damage to trade relations.

“As we are harvesting this crop, we are making decisions on what to plant next year, how’s it going to look. So with this level of uncertainty, that makes that planning process challenging too as well. We have worked over the last several decades to gain markets and the Chinese market has been one that we have spent a lot of focus on and great potential there,” Duncan said.

Over the past four years, the U.S. Dairy industry has struggled with the issue of over supply and low commodity prices. Tariffs have only added to the problem. But with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, many farmers remain hopeful it is a sign of things to come.