Speaking with AgriTalk Radio’s Mike Adams last week, Bill Northey, Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture and co-chair of Farmers for Romney, outlined the candidate’s positions on trade, estate taxes and other issues of interest to farmers and ranchers. Earlier, we summarized a similar interview with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discussing the Obama Administration’s record and positions on the same issues.
Beginning with trade issues, Northey says a Romney Administration would be more aggressive in pursuing trade agreements. President Obama, he says, has not asked for trade-promotion authority, which he says generally is regarded as essential to enable negotiations toward new agreements.
It is a great thing that we finally got the free-trade agreements (FTA) with South Korea, Columbia and Panama passed, Northey says. He points out that the FTAs initially were negotiated during the Bush Administration and took three years to renegotiate. In some cases, he says, those negotiations resulted in provisions less friendly to U.S. agriculture in defense of manufacturing provisions. The Panama agreement, he notes, is just now coming into enforcement.
Northey points out that U.S. agriculture produces more than domestic consumers can use, making trade critical. He says a Romney Administration would be a tough defender of trade policies and an aggressive negotiator for new trade agreements.
Regarding the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Northey says the agreement could provide some real opportunities, and Romney is supportive, especially if Japan involved. A Romney Administration also would pursue bilateral agreements with countries and regions such as in Europe and Asia. These agreements, he says, have fallen off the plate, in part because of the focus on the TPP. He says the Obama Administration has not been as aggressive in pursuing new trade agreements as past administrations, and he believes the Romney administration would be more so.
Regarding policies toward China, Northey says Romney outlines what he means by getting tough with China during the last presidential debate. He plans to challenge China on currency policies, believing that if Chinese currency were valued properly, our food and agricultural products would become more affordable in China. He says this approach could lead to tensions from time to time, but those tensions could produce a more positive trade environment. China needs our products, he says. They have a lot of mouths to feed, and increasingly rely on our imports of food such as pork, feed such as soybeans for their animals and other products such as cotton.