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Commodity Group Execs Say Biden's Top Trade Pick Tai Knows Agriculture

Tyne Morgan

March 4, 2021

While trade is not a headline of the Biden Administration during the first 100 days, it’s not stopping Katherine Tai from making her voice heard. The Senate Finance Committee approved Katherine Tai's nomination for U-S Trade Representative on Wednesday, nearly a week after Tai make one thing clear during her confirmation hearing: a vow to stay tough on China.

Tai recently met with commodity group CEOs and showcased her knowledge of agriculture.

“She was in charge of the agriculture portfolio at Ways and Means, and honestly, I didn't remember that,” says Chandler Goule, CEO of National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG). “When we had an opportunity to meet her, that made me feel a lot better. I mean, she talked about ARC, she talked about PLC, and so there's not as much of an uphill climb there to educate her.”

Goule says not only did Tai thoroughly talk about trade, but she understood how vital trade is to agriculture and commodity prices.

“Everybody that was sitting around that table exports anywhere from 30 to 50% or more of their commodities,” adds Goule. “The main ask we had was continued to pressure on China, and let's get a coalition of countries to do that. “

During Tai’s confirmation hearing, she not only talked about why holding China accountable will be vital moving forward, but also the balancing act trade negotiators have to take when doing business with China. And Goule says Phase Two is already on Tai’s mind, a deal that could bode well for commodities like soybeans.

“I sense a very experienced trade hand, who has had a lot of experience working in the trade space, and understands that china is a tough negotiator and a tough competitor, but also that china's interest important market for us,” says Stephen Censky, CEO of American Soybean Association. “These issues have to be navigated with diplomacy and skill as we try to try to work through these issues.”

National Sorghum Producers CEO Tim Lust called the commodity CEO’s discussion with Tai positive, and the groups reminded her the Biden Administration can’t lose sight of trade.

“I think she certainly understands how trade is our time at USTR and working with China, in our case, specifically, so I think that is important there that we look at other options as well, certainly, whether that's TPP, or whether that's India, there's a there's a lot of opportunities that continue to be there,” says Lust. “Trade needs to continue to be a priority. And I think it will, you know, it's it just may not have the momentum on the front end that we saw probably four years ago.”

Censky says even though Biden has made clear trade is taking a backseat to COVID recovery and climate, he says trade has to be part of the conversation.

“These trade issues don't go away,” says Censky. “They have to be dealt with.”

Goule says the CEOs also communicated the importance of rejoining the World Trade Organization.

“Especially with wheat and rice, we won two major cases against China through the WTO,over how much they had not been buying and their internal subsidies,” says Goule.

“But it can't go anywhere because the appellate body at the WTO is shut down. And she was already in the loop. And all that definitely said China will be a major priority, the WTO getting it back up and running, and then to start looking at some of these other bad actors like India So it was a fantastic meeting. I feel very confident in her leadership and understanding of agriculture.”


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