NEVADA, Iowa -- The country’s top trade negotiator for agriculture said Thursday during a visit with Iowa farmers that he expects President Donald Trump to follow through on his threat to place trade taxes on $50 billion of Chinese imports.
Gregg Doud, the chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative, also told Iowa farmers he understands their concerns that a budding trade war will hurt their bottom lines.
Doud said the tariffs are necessary to stop China from stealing U.S. patents and trade secrets. Doud, who was raised on a farm in Kansas, acknowledged retaliatory tariffs are likely to impact Iowa farmers, but hopes to help offset any potential harm by opening new trade markets for U.S. products.
“The president is taking actions that he can to mitigate that (Chinese intellectual property theft), and I think that’s the right thing to do,” Doud told reporters after meeting with Iowa ag secretary Mike Naig and roughly a dozen farmers and FFA members on Bill Couser’s cattle farm.
“Agriculture has traditionally been at the tip of the spear when it comes to these kinds of issues. That’s going to probably continue to be the case,” Doud said. “My part, in discussing these with my boss, is to say, ‘Look, the best thing we can do in this environment is to play offense and work with other countries to expand our trading opportunities.’ There are always going to be these types of friction, but we’re got to continue to play offense to open new markets.”
Doud said an example is his wish to secure a new trade agreement with Japan to create new markets for agricultural products there. He does not have a timeline for or know how the U.S. would reach such an agreement.
Greg Ibach, who is with the federal ag department and also spoke this morning with those Iowa farmers, made a plea that concerned farmers have heard before from the administration: stick it out with us, and things will be better in the long-term.
“What I think the president is asking of all of us right now, (including) farmers, is to hang with him. Because the rules that were established over time aren’t working anymore,” Ibach said, adding that once the administration resolves the issues it sees in U.S. trade policy, “Then I think agriculture will explode.”
Naig said he understands the administration’s desire to update and balance international trade agreements, but wants those goals reached without disrupting Iowa’s agriculture economy. Of particular concern is if any international trade markets go sour while the countries haggle over tariffs, he said.
“The reality is markets react in real time to the news,” Naig said. “So there should be a sense of urgency. I hear that on the part of the administration, saying they’re working to resolve these things.”
Doug, Ibach and Naig also planned to participate in a roundtable discussion on agriculture at the World Pork Expo, being held Thursday at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.