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Trade ambassador waits for confirmation

Agribusiness Matters 5-2-17

Another key cabinet nomination for agriculture could come up in the U.S. Senate this week.

President Trump’s nominee to be the next U.S. Trade Representative.

With trade being one of the President’s major goals, not having a USTR is limiting the negotiation process.

The president was within an eyelash of scrapping NAFTA last week and is threatening the South Korean Trade Agreement.

If Congress can agree, the office will be filled soon.

Robert Lighthizer, is ready for full-Senate consideration after unanimous committee approval last week. A former Deputy U.S.T.R., Lighthizer’s nomination could be brought up at any time, even as early as this week, depending on the floor situation with other nominations and the federal budget.

The trade portfolio is critical for agricultural producers hoping to boost foreign demand in a time of chronically-low commodity prices, but also to avoid trade retaliation while reworking deals like NAFTA. Senate Ag Chair Pat Roberts, made these comments during Lighthizer’s committee confirmation hearing.

“When I met with you last January you assured me that you would defend agriculture as trade problems arise, and I would like to remind you to take it a step further and be the champion of agriculture from the start so that we don’t get into these problems,” Roberts says.

Lighthizer says he understands the pressures agriculture is under right now. “I have a long history with agriculture. I worked on it when I was a USTR. As the senator knows, I negotiated the Reagan Administration crane agreement with the Soviet Union in 1983.”

Lighthizer assured longtime Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, he and the administration understand the huge stakes for agriculture in renegotiating NAFTA. Grassley stressed the danger of any renegotiation.

Grassley pointed to Mexico’s rank as the number one customer for U.S. corn and soybean meal and number two buyer of U.S. beef, with Canada number three.

Mexico now buys 12-times as much U.S. pork, as when NAFTA was implemented in 1994.

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