Chief Ag Negotiator: ‘It’s Time To Play Offense’

Doud China
“We have a President of the United States who stood up and said, ‘You know what, it's time to deal with this. It's gone on long enough,’" says USTR chief ag negotiator Gregg Doud. ( Farm Journal )

Upon return from negotiations with Chinese officials, Gregg Doud, chief ag negotiator for the Trump Administration, says it’s time for the U.S. to play offense. 

Doud has been involved in trade discussions with China for more than 15 years throughout his career. One thing he’s learned: it’s not going to be a fast process. While he says his most recent trip to Beijing was worth the time and expense, it wasn’t a silver bullet to put water on the trade fires.

“Even if we can make a little incremental progress, it's worth the trip,” he told AgDay TV’s Betsy Jibben at the World Pork Expo. “It's worth getting over there to interact with your counterparts in a market that is very, very, very important for U.S. agriculture.”

While this wasn’t his first trip to China, it was his first time engaging in this kind of capacity. One thing he learned on this trip is that while there’s good rapport between agriculture trade officials from both countries, there’s still a knowledge gap. Chinese negotiators don’t understand our regulatory system, our food safety system and how food is produced in the U.S. compared to how it’s produced in China, Doud says. 

“It’s very different,” he says. “So, you've got to continue to have a dialogue and discussion to help everybody understand where each other is coming from, and I think we got a lot of that accomplished this week.”

According to Doud, the trade issues between the U.S. and China related to steel are issues that have been brewing for decades and needed to be addressed. 

“We have a President of the United States who stood up and said, ‘You know what, it's time to deal with this. It's gone on long enough.’ This is a guy that steps right into the middle of the breach and says, ‘We're going to do deal with this and do something about it,’” he says adding when that occurs the initial reaction from both sides is to “bristle up” and worry over how things will work out. “I can tell you as a guy that's been working on these issues for 25 years in Washington, DC they needed to be addressed and it's long overdue.”

Farmers across the country have extreme anxiety of the tariffs implemented by our largest trading partners but Doud says the best next move is to start to play offense. 

“Yeah, we've got retaliatory tariffs against a very significant amount of our U.S. ag exports. The best thing that we can do from the position that I'm in, and from my boss’ position, is to go on the offense,” he said. “Let's get some deals with some other countries where we can expand our opportunities with other countries and grow our markets, whether that's in Japan or Southeast Asia or in Africa or even with the UK at some point down the road.”