Government

Top trade official tells Iowa farmers to stick it out

U.S. fixing trade agreements and looking for new markets

Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau

Gregg Doud (center), a trade negotiator, and Greg Ibach (right), from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, talk with Iowa farmers Thursday at Bill Couser’s cattle farm near Nevada, Iowa
Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau Gregg Doud (center), a trade negotiator, and Greg Ibach (right), from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, talk with Iowa farmers Thursday at Bill Couser’s cattle farm near Nevada, Iowa

NEVADA, Iowa — The country’s top trade negotiator for agriculture told Iowa farmers Thursday he expects President Donald Trump to follow through on his threat to place tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports.

Gregg Doud, the chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of 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 he hopes to help offset potential harm by opening new 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 Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig and roughly a dozen farmers and FFA members on Bill Couser’s cattle farm in rural Nevada in central Iowa.

“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 did not have a timeline for that or know how the U.S. would reach such an agreement.

Greg Ibach, who is with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, repeated the plea farmers have heard before from the administration: Stick it out with us, and things will be better in the long-term.

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“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.

Once the administration resolves the issues it sees in U.S. trade policy, he said, “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, he said, is international trade markets going sour while countries haggle over tariffs.

“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.

l Comments: (515) 422-9061; erin.murphy@lee.net

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