U.S. ag negotiator defends Trump’s position

DES MOINES, Iowa — Trade negotiators in the U.S. Trade Representative’s office are officially called “ambassador,” and they learn to speak the language of diplomacy.

That leads them into situations that could cause non-professionals to suffer greatly from cognitive dissonance because the various positions and statements they make for their government contradict each other, occasionally fly in the face of apparent reality and sometimes raise cries of hypocrisy.

But a professional diplomat learns to survive this, even through frequently awkward situations.

Such was the situation of newly minted USTR chief agriculture negotiator Ambassador Gregg Doud, as he spoke at the World Pork Expo and tried to reassure an anxious hog industry that President Donald Trump has not thrown their future under his bus.

“Is there a word beyond ‘critical?’ ” Doud said when expressing how important he felt more market access for U.S. pork will be in the future.

“I see meat as the real opportunity” for expanding U.S. farm exports, he said, days after Mexico and China imposed tariffs on U.S. pork. 

“This whole thing in agriculture hinges on trade.”

Doud had the unenviable task of squaring the Trump administration’s trade attacks on almost all its trading partners with the hog industry’s fervent commitment to expanding markets. He said the administration actions are an attempt to get the U.S. better treatment.

He condemned Chinese protectionism and intellectual property theft and took a shot at Canada’s steel industry, which has been hit with tariffs.

“The correct response to this is for these countries to work with the United States,” said Doud.

“The correct response for even countries like Canada, that sell us a lot of steel in the United States, is to sit down with us and … understand, we’re not going to let you continue to destroy industries that we have in this country.”

Doud did not offer any evidence or suggestion that Canada somehow cheats in steel trade or subsidizes its industry.

He cautioned the pork industry that new trade deals and trade fixes won’t be easy to get.

“All the low-hanging fruit has been picked,” he said.

“There are no silver bullets…. This is going to get a little more difficult here in the short run.”

However, he also encouraged optimism.

“China’s going to need us in agriculture.”

What’s it like to handle the export-oriented agriculture file when that industry is being hit because of actions taken to protect import-fearful industries?

No reporter got to ask Doud that because he did not take reporters’ questions.

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