With the advent of 2015, there’s hope the Obama administration will follow through on its ambitious trade agenda. Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic agree a more open trade partnership makes sense.
It’s time the European Union puts politics aside and eliminates non-scientific barriers to trade. Any successful trade agreement must open restricted markets and encourage fair competition for all.
During calendar year 2013, the total value of U.S. farm exports totaled more than $144 billion. Farm exports accounted for nearly 31 percent of the U.S. gross income.
With more than 95 percent of the world’s population living outside the United States, pursuing those markets is essential.
What developing nations want most are cereals, meat, milk and eggs.
While U.S. meat consumption has leveled off the last few years, populations and the meat diets of Japan, China and other countries has been on the upswing.
The United States has the climate, cropland and know-how to supply agricultural products to feed the nations of the hungry world. Our country has the world’s best infrastructure. We have the best-trained farmers. Our competitive edge is larger and more permanent than in any manufacturing industry.
Our government must commit to becoming the best we can be in international trade. If we conducted trade the same way we produced food, we wouldn’t have trouble moving agricultural products to people who need them overseas.
It’s time for the leadership of this country to view American agriculture as one of the premier growth opportunities. We must become more aggressive in conducting trade agreements. We must have a secretary of agriculture who makes international trade a top priority. Without strong trade agreements that give us free access to the world marketplace, we cannot prosper in agriculture or any other business that depends so much on exports.
If the world’s farm trade barriers were removed, this country could increase agricultural commodity sales. That’s a given.
This country must eliminate unilateral trade sanctions on nations that don’t live up to our expectations of how they should conduct their internal affairs.
Sanctions do not work – they only hurt our nation’s ability to trade. Each time we impose new sanctions, we surrender yet another market to competitors who are only too willing to sell in our absence.
U.S. farmers could also supply the raw materials for an estimated $40 billion per year in exports of high-valued processed foods from new plants located primarily in rural areas.
If our country doesn’t gear up its value-added production, the Japanese and some of our other competitors will. Some countries including China and Japan are adding value to agricultural commodities they import from us.
The United States must assume a leadership position in trade talks throughout the world. Potential trading partners cannot wait for us to take our place at the negotiating table. We cannot improve our position in world trade if we cannot find time to meet with them.
Unless American farmers and agribusinesses convince our government to advance global trading, this country will be sealed in a declining domestic market. The future of U.S. agriculture is tied to our competitiveness in world trade. Our country must become more aggressive and assume its leadership role in trade negotiations.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion