USDA Under Secretary of Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs talks tariffs, NAFTA

06/06/2018 02:03 PM

LEXINGTON- Amidst a burgeoning trade war between Canada and Mexico, USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney held a round table with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, to address concerns of those in the agricultural community.

McKinney answered questions about a variety of topics, but many were interested in the new tariffs opposed on our North American neighbors, and the financial consequences the agricultural community will have to bear.

The United States imposed Mexico and Canada with 25 percent steel tariffs and 10 percent aluminum tariffs June 1 as a way to pressure the countries into agreeing with the revised terms for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Mexico hit back Tuesday, imposing their own tariffs on pork, steel, cheese and other products, the tariff on pork could cost American pork producers an estimated $100,000,000.

McKinney says the tariff battle will hopefully be temporary as they continue to craft out an agreement with the countries.

“I remain bullish it’s all going to settled. Because the Mexican and American people, and all the trading partners—just as with the Canadian and American trading partners—I think are long standing friends and I think it will be sustained. I hope this is a short term venture.”

NAFTA was first in place with the three countries in 1994, but the Trump Administration has been working to rewrite the deal. Recently, putting pressure on Congress to get a deal sealed. McKinney believes working on a new deal is needed, and remains hopeful an agreement can be reached—despite withering relations between the countries.

“There is so much trade between our three countries that I think it will end okay,” said McKinney. “I just hope that they—or we—it could be any one of the three—don’t do damage getting there.”

The Trump Administration has said as recently as Tuesday, they would prefer to have a bilateral agreement with the two countries, as opposed to a trilateral. Canada, however, is not on board with this trade agreement.

McKinney chalks up the resistance to a bilateral agreement to Canadians hoping to retain the upper hand.

“They’ve been fairly obstructiveness all along so we will see what they want to do, said McKinney. “They lose leverage when they do a bilateral, so I fully understand why they would say that. We have some major stakes here, and the first shot was not fired by the US.”

Another issue touched upon during the round table was the shortage of migrant workers available to work on Kentucky farms. McKinney attributed the hold up to politics and the ongoing immigration debate.

“We in ag and the USDA are advocating every turn we can get to please find a way, let’s do it legally, but find a way that we can get help even if it’s a guest worker program.” he said.

Michon Lindstrom

Michon is a producer for Pure Politics. Michon comes to Kentucky from Springfield, Illinois where she served as the statehouse reporter for the NBC affiliate. During her time in the Land of Lincoln she covered the state’s two year budget impasse and the largest school funding overall in Illinois history. Pure Politics airs weeknights at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Michon on Twitter at @MichonLindstrom or reach her by email at michon.lindstrom@charter.com

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