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Free Trade Agreements: Is There a Trade Lane Left Without One?

trade

Free Trade Agreements: Is There a Trade Lane Left Without One?

Since the first Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 1860, a lot has happened. A solid 160 years will do that for you. On the FTA front specifically, the focus has also shifted: what used to be an opportunity for significant duty reduction and, therefore, a more competitive position in the FTA partner’s home market has turned into a tool for faster access to the market and control of a trading relationship. With the applied, weighted, mean duty rates globally down to 2.59% from 8.57% in 1994 (Source: macrotrends.net based on World Trade Organization (WTO) data), the importance of duty rate reduction has been marginalized—so why is there still such a strong movement towards adding more FTAs to an already considerable total worldwide?

Some Recent Developments

Trade agreements are not only about duty rates anymore; the collaboration and facilitation part is just as, if not more, important. That means trading partners make efforts to reduce the paperwork on the trade lane, give priority to incoming shipments, and collaborate on data exchange and simplification of procedures. In today’s economies, these elements are just as crucial as a few duty points. In addition to the facilitation, environmental clauses are included in new FTAs. Got to start somewhere. Customs unions (like the EU) take it one step further—they usually allow for goods to move freely between member states and have a single common tariff for the outside world.

In a similar fashion, the FTA accounts for financial and administrative arrangements that are not limited to duty rates and import documents. In a broader scope, abolishing of export subsidies, transparency with added value calculations, investigative cooperations, etc. are part of the package and simplify the use and verification of FTA claims.

Perhaps not a trend (yet?), but the Pan-Euro-Mediterranean is loosening its Rules of Origin (likely in effect in 2021). Rules of Origin set forth the requirements that need to be met to benefit from FTA arrangements (i.e., qualify for preferential treatment). Typically, Rules of Origin encompass a required tariff shift (i.e., a substantial transformation needs to take place) and/or a value-added component (i.e., the value add of locally sourced parts, materials, labor, etc. needs to exceed a specific threshold). The value-added thresholds have historically been relatively high (60% and up) and loosening those requirements will simply allow more products to qualify, which will give developing countries especially more opportunities to qualify their exports for preferential treatment.

Per the WTO, over 300 Regional Trade Agreements (RTA) are currently in force. This number only reflects agreements that include preferential duty rate schemes, as agreements such as bilateral investment treaties or Joint Commissions would increase this number two- or three-fold. The RTA number includes bilateral/local agreements as well as ‘monster trade pacts’ such as the EU, USMCA or ASEAN – China agreements. It has been a steady growth of FTAs since the 1990s, with a peak in the action between 2003 and 2011. And (see below) there is no end in sight.

What’s Next?

Go big or go home is what the EU is thinking. Agreements are in place with around 40 countries, ratification in progress for agreements with around 30 countries, and agreements with another 20 countries are waiting to be signed. For any countries left behind, it seems that there are ongoing negotiations (e.g., Australia, New Zealand) or plans to negotiate. Don’t despair.

Never-ending speculation on a Trans Atlantic agreement (US – EU) or a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) including the US will not be put to rest until actually completed and in force (the US withdrew from the TPP in 2017). The US currently has 14 FTAs with 20 countries, re-did the USMCA in 2020, and negotiations with Kenya and Taiwan seem to be in the works.

Lastly, with Brexit in its final stages, the UK is also breaking off FTA relationships with EU partners. That means the UK will have to create separate FTAs with these countries. Practically, not all of the EU FTAs will have a UK equivalent by January 1, 2021, and some may never be in place. This means regular (Most Favored Nations – MFN) rates will apply come January 1 unless another preferential program (like the Generalized System of Preferences) applies. But with the UK exit comes an opportunity for Britain to conclude agreements the EU has not been able to pull off. Perhaps a US – UK FTA is nearer than thought. Let’s check the odds on that!

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Anne van de Heetkamp is VP of Product Management and Global Trade Content at Descartes and is an international trade expert with 20+ years of industry experience. Previously he served as Director for global trade compliance/management company, TradeBeam.

corruption

TACKLING CORRUPTION IN THE TRADING SYSTEM THROUGH A CULTURE OF INTEGRITY

No Disagreement Here

For decades, economists have extolled the virtues of the rule of law as a critical factor in leveling the playing field through a framework of rules and regulations that are easy to understand and evenly, logically and fairly applied to all participants in an economic system. This central premise is reflected in the principle of “predictability through transparency,” one of three pillars of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the global trading system. At the heart of this focus has been an emphasis on reducing the role that corruption can play in the administration of laws, function of government, conduct of business, and protection of citizen rights.

Back in an October 1996 address to the Board of Governors at the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, then World Bank President James Wolfensohn gave a groundbreaking speech in which he described corruption as a cancer and committed the Bank to strengthen its internal controls and supporting the international fight against corruption.

“…corruption diverts resources from the poor to the rich, increases the cost of running businesses, distorts public expenditures, and deters foreign investors…it erodes the constituency for aid programs and humanitarian relief.”

– James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, October 1996

The Heavy Toll of Corruption

Significant attention has been paid to the goal of reducing corruption, particularly for emerging economies. The World Economic Forum calculates the global cost of corruption is at least $2.6 trillion, or roughly 5 percent of global GDP. For emerging economies alone, the UN estimates that corruption costs these countries some $1.2 trillion annually through bribery, theft and tax evasion.

Cost of Corruption

It is also widely recognized that global corruption can undermine the benefits of agreements negotiated to introduce predictability and transparency into the trading system. Former WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy described corruption in the international trading system as tantamount to “a hidden increase of the cost of trade.” Within the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the global community identified the promotion of the rule of law as a key priority for development through Goal 16, which is dedicated to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies, and to achieve this goal by 2030.

Given the consensus among stakeholders within the international trade community, the question is: how to effectively combat corruption to achieve our shared goals of rules and laws that are applied objectively, consistently and equitably to all?

Since the time of Wolfensohn’s catalyzing speech, governments, the business community, civil society and international institutions have rallied around global efforts to create initiatives and mechanisms to mitigate the scourge of corruption. Member states and international organizations drafted and signed anti-corruption conventions through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations (UN), and established regional conventions and working groups in Africa, the Americas and Asia.

Corruption Agreements Table

A Comprehensive Approach to Dismantling Corruption

In spite of the proliferation of anti-corruption instruments in regional and international organizations, the issue of corruption persists as a challenge. Punitive measures only go so far in achieving anti-corruption aims. A more comprehensive approach to dismantling corruption centers on enhancing integrity and ethics in an effort to affect the cultural practices and norms that perpetuate corruption.

This change was reflected in the 2017 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Integrity that reframed the anti-corruption strategy to focus on promoting the essential societal pillar of integrity as a sustainable response to the global problem of corruption. The adoption of these recommendations was part of a deliberate shift to go beyond ad hoc efforts toward a more comprehensive and strategic approach to promoting integrity through systems, culture, and accountability.

Defining Public Integrity

The OECD defines the term public integrity as “a consistent alignment of, and adherence to, shared ethical values, principles and norms for upholding and prioritizing the public interest.” Consistent with describing public integrity as an aspirational goal (versus the punitive connotation of combatting corruption), this definition grounds the work of promoting integrity in global efforts to make government functions more effective, economies more accountable, and societies more inclusive by involving all stakeholders in the effort to improve governance and strengthen the rule of law.

In May, the OECD took the next step in publishing the OECD Public Integrity Handbook. The handbook details best practices, principles and concrete actions for promoting a culture of integrity in government functions with an emphasis on generating dialogue between business, government and civil society to promote greater stakeholder collaboration in upholding public integrity values. The report expands on the 13 public integrity recommendations articulated in 2017 and goes a step further by translating those principles into practical measures governments can implement to institute change.

The OECD describes the handbook as a roadmap to help governments identify what integrity looks like and why it is important to take a whole-of-society approach in building public trust. The handbook can thus be viewed as a toolkit that helps anti-corruption advocates undertake the hard work of creating the ‘right relationship’ between government, citizens, business, and civil society.

Public Integrity

Public Integrity is Important to Trade and Investment Flows

International organizations and governments are not the only institutions concerned about combatting corruption, creating a culture of integrity, and strengthening the rule of law.

These issues are equally significant for the private sector in an increasingly globalized world as they are determinant of the business environment. This is why trade agreements have been grounded in rule of law principles, and have incorporated transparency and anti-corruption components to instill investors with greater confidence they can compete and operate in global markets. As noted by The World Justice Project, “uneven enforcement of regulations, corruption, insecure property rights, and ineffective means to settle disputes undermine legitimate business and deter both domestic and foreign investment.”

Companies make trade and investment decisions based on where they have confidence in the integrity of public and private institutions and where there is fairness, enforcement and proper adjudication of the law. In a 2017 Business Pulse Survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean, 31 percent of respondents described the rule of law as the “most important” issue to address for business, while 45 percent of executives characterized strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption as the most important issues to be addressed to enhance economic growth in the region.

Corruption Quote

It is this emphasis on promoting public integrity that underpinned the inclusion of an anti-corruption chapter in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that entered into force on July 1, 2020, representing one of the first times governments have formally committed to combat bribery and corruption in a trade agreement. The private sector has also prioritized an anti-corruption component in the bilateral trade negotiations now underway between Brazil and the United States.

Given the private sector’s interest in eliminating corruption from global trade, the U.S. Chamber recently co-hosted a public forum with the OECD entitled “The Role of Public Integrity in Promoting the Rule of Law” to examine the importance of the public integrity movement for global commerce. Julio Bacio Terracino, Acting Head of the OECD’s Public Sector Integrity Division, joined government officials, senior executives and the U.S. Chamber for a dialogue to review the OECD recommendations, discuss practical considerations outlined in the new handbook, and examine how tools like this are helpful in creating trade and investment conditions that enable business success.

Public Integrity through the Private Sector Prism

There are a number of public-private interactions the OECD has flagged as vulnerable to corruption or solicitation of bribes, notably in customs clearance and trade facilitation, public procurement, licensing and permitting processes, and public infrastructure contracting. During the forum, executives highlighted the critical role that governments play in creating the conditions for trade and investment by leveling the playing field for all actors, creating certainty, operating transparently, upholding the sanctity of contracts, and enabling access to justice.

Through its Coalition for the Rule of Law in Global Markets, the U.S. Chamber defines the concept of the rule of law through the prism of the private sector by articulating the five factors that determine the ability of any business to make good investment and operating decisions. These elements are transparency, predictability, stability, accountability and due process — each of which requires adherence to the shared ethical values, principles and norms that define public integrity.

The whole-of-society focus of the OECD Public Integrity Handbook recognizes the private sector’s role as a co-creator of the rule of law and acknowledges that all facets of society must commit and contribute to building a culture of integrity. This approach aligns with the Coalition’s vision of business working in concert with governments, civil society, and international organizations to promote remedies that will advance the rule of law.

Fostering a culture of integrity in the global trading system that enables inclusive economic growth requires all actors to take concrete steps to maintain open, transparent and meritocratic environments where there is proper enforcement and adjudication of the law. These actions include addressing structural obstacles to trade and investment, simplifying regulatory frameworks, harnessing technology to increase transparency in public functions like procurement, permitting and licensing processes, supporting trade facilitation efforts that strengthen and make customs regimes more efficient, and extending legal investment protections. It is only through this collaborative action and partnership among all stakeholders that a world where corruption is vanquished and a culture of integrity thrives can truly be possible.

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Kendra Gaither

Kendra Gaither is the Executive Director of the Coalition for the Rule of Law in Global Markets at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Over her career spanning two decades, Kendra has specialized in international trade and investment as a career diplomat with the State Department focused working in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas, and global public policy innovation through strategic partnerships at Carnegie Mellon University.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

agriculture

USTR, DOC, and Department of Agriculture Issue Plan to Investigate Foreign Imports of Certain Perishable Produce

On September 1, 2020 the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Department of Agriculture, and Department of Commerce issued a 32-page report outlining the Trump Administration’s plan to address increased foreign imports of perishable fruits and vegetables. Following the public hearings held in August, the Administration published this report in hopes to open a dialogue with senior Mexican Government officials over the next 90 days regarding specific produce.

The USTR requested that the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) formally initiate an investigation under Section 201of the Trade Act of 1974 (Global Safeguard Investigation) with respect to imports of blueberries. Additionally, USTR intends to request that the ITC monitor and investigate imports of strawberries and bell peppers, which could lead to an expedited Section 201 investigations later this year.

The USTR is separately pursuing negotiations with the Mexican government to address U.S. industry concerns over imports of strawberries, bell peppers, and other perishable products. Section 201 investigations occur when a country experiences an unexpected surge in the import quantity of a certain product. The most recent Section 201 investigation was used to limit imports of solar panels and washing machines in 2018.

Other initiatives include the Department of Commerce improving communication with U.S. farmers responsible for growing the subject produce and assisting them in understanding trade remedy laws and procedures.

Similarly, the Department of Agriculture will develop a market promotion strategy for domestically produced produce and work with producers to maximize the use of existing agriculture programs. USTR, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Agriculture will establish an interagency working group to monitor seasonal and perishable fruit and vegetable products, coordinate as appropriate regarding future investigations and trade actions, and provide technical assistance to Congress in developing legislation on this issue.

The interagency announcement regarding imports of certain fruits and vegetables follows media reports that U.S. farmers are on track to receive a record $37.2 billion in subsidies from the government this year.

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Stephen Brophy is an attorney in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office focusing on international trade.

Turner Kim is an Assistant Trade Analyst in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office.

Camron Greer is an Assistant Trade Analyst in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office.

heirloom tomato

ALL THE WORLD TREASURES AN HEIRLOOM – TOMATO, THAT IS

Everyone Can Enjoy an Heirloom

Spring weather heralds the start of weekend farmers markets offering colorful fruits and vegetables, artisanal cheeses, and home-made baked goods. Along the east coast, tomatoes play a starring role at the local farmers markets. Green, yellow, orange, brown, grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, large, small – the variety seems endless.

Farmers markets are a great way to shop fresh and seasonal, but if you can’t get there, you can still find an increasingly impressive selection of tomatoes at your local grocery store. Are the tomatoes in the organic corner market the same tomatoes you get from the farmer? Unlikely. For the most part local farmers cannot sustain supply to large grocery chains where consumers are demand tomatoes year round. To meet that demand, the business of the heirloom tomato has grown global.

Pimp my Tomato

Italians made tomatoes a kitchen staple, but the tomato didn’t originate in Europe. Researchers have traced its origin to the “pimp,” a pea-sized red fruit that grows naturally in Peru and Southern Ecuador. As with so many foods we love, the Mexicans domesticated the tomato and Spanish explorers brought it home, where locals created a sweeter and tastier, but also more vulnerable, tomato.

Whether due to the preferences of grocers or their shoppers, the market overwhelmingly demands that growers focus on the few breeds of tomatoes that dominate our grocery shelves today. Producers worked to change the characteristics of tomatoes through cross-pollination in order to increase yield, to produce uniform shapes and sizes with smooth skin, and to render the tomatoes hardier for transport. Tomatoes are picked while green and artificially ripened with ethylene gas, sacrificing better taste for better looks (the flavor comes from the sugars that develop as the tomato ripens naturally).

partial-dg-pimp-tomato-graphic-for-web

Photo: The pimp fruit by David Griffen, Smithsonian.com

The New (Old) Tomato

The strict definition of heirloom tomato is a variety of tomato that has been openly pollinated for more than 50 years. Today, most experts would consider heirlooms as any non-hybrid tomato. Unlike heirlooms, many hybrid vegetables and fruits, while resilient and uniform, produce seeds that cannot reproduce. Therefore, the open pollination principle for heirlooms is key. As a result, it is the seed savers and gardeners with a flair for history that helped propel heirloom tomatoes to their elite status.

In the last decade, consumers started going back to the tomato’s heirloom roots. Top restaurants, prominent chefs, cooking magazines, the farm-to-table movement, and the proliferation of farmers markets have all put heirloom tomato flavor on display. Americans have become more tomato-curious than ever.

Regional is the New Local

Generally speaking, the entire world loves a tomato. As the most consumed vegetable in the world, we devour 130 million tons of tomatoes every year, of which 88 million are sold fresh. The remaining 42 million tons are destined for processing into tomato sauce and other products. China, the European Union, India, the United States, and Turkey are the world’s top producers.

Trade in tomatoes tends to be regional. Asia, Europe, and Africa represent 45 percent, 22 percent, and 12 percent, respectively, of global production, and much of what’s grown in one region is traded there. France, for example, is the fifth largest producer of tomatoes in Europe, exporting one quarter of its production across the European continent, primarily to Germany.

North American Tomato Trade – A Tasty NAFTA Product

About half of fresh tomatoes consumed in the United States are imported. The government applies tariffs to fresh tomatoes from countries we don’t have a free trade agreement with, and the tariffs fluctuate based on the timing of the U.S. growing season. From March 1 to July 14 (when Florida’s volume is highest and California and southeastern producing states begin to ship commercial tomatoes), it’s 3.9 cents per kilogram. Between July 15 until August 31, it goes down to 2.8 cents per kilogram (availability of locally grown tomatoes is highest). September 1 to November 14, it goes up again to 3.9 cents per kilogram. For the remainder of our winter, November 15 until March 1, it goes back down to 2.8 cents per kilogram.

Nearly all of fresh tomatoes we import into the United States come from Mexico (89 percent) and Canada (10 percent) duty-free under NAFTA. NAFTA partners are also the primary destinations for exported American tomatoes, with 77 percent of our exports going to Canada and 20 percent to Mexico. (The United States manufactures 96 percent of the tomatoes it uses in processing.)

Even though they enter the United States duty-free, tomatoes from Mexico are subject to minimum prices that vary based on the season; the price floor for winter tomatoes ranges from 31 cents to 59 cents, while summer tomato prices vary between 24.6 to 46.8 cents, depending on the tomato category. This is because Mexico has gotten very efficient at producing tomatoes year-round, which concerns some segments of American growers, particularly in Florida.

Florida growers are seeking changes to U.S. antidumping and countervailing duty proceedings in the current renegotiations of NAFTA to allow them to pursue dumping cases based on pricing in one specific season versus relying on three years of data, as is currently required. This proposal has created rifts among U.S. growers – primarily Southeast growers who support it and Western growers who fear its consequences. Mexico has also expressed strong opposition. American producers of other fruits and vegetables have also publicly opposed the proposal. They worry Mexico could use the same approach against American exporters of perishable produce.

Global, Regional, Local – It’s All Good

Our love for tomatoes will not recede any time soon. Improvements in technology are helping farmers increase their yields while maintaining or even reducing the acreage they are devoting to tomatoes. But even as trade routes for tomatoes are increasing and broadening, the allure and specialness of a locally-grown fresh tomato remains.

Tomatoes are the most popular plant for amateur home gardeners like myself. And with spring in full bloom, it’s only a matter of time before local tomatoes explode onto the scene in our neighborhood farmers market, exhibiting their versatility and flavor. The heirloom tomato has once again returned to prominence – just sprinkle a little salt on it, and take a satisfying bite. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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Ayelet Haran

Ayelet Haran is a contributor to TradeVistas. She is a government affairs and policy executive in the life sciences industry. She holds a Master’s of Public Administration degree in International Economic Policy from Columbia University.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

tomatoes

IS A TOMATO A FRUIT OR VEGETABLE? BOTANISTS AND TRADERS DISAGREE.

Adults sometimes stop asking questions like “Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?” Recently, my middle school-aged daughter quizzed us over dinner on this. She knew the answer because one of her classmates had recently presented on the legal answer in debate class. I was bemused that it came down to a Supreme Court decision emanating from a customs dispute. Here’s the answer, and some trade trivia on which countries export the most tomatoes. Some of the up and comers are quite intriguing.

Nix v. Hedden

In a decision rendered on May 10, 1893, the Supreme Court handed down its answer to whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. Under the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883, vegetables were assessed a tariff of 10 percent ad valorem. Fruits could be imported duty-free. In Nix v. Hedden, Mr. John Nix brought a case against Edward Hedden, a customs officer at the port of New York, seeking to recover duties he paid under protest on tomatoes imported from the West Indies. Nix had to prove the tomato should be considered a fruit for the purpose of determining the import duty.

In Commerce and Common Parlance

Nix’s counsel read from Webster’s Dictionary, Worcester’s Dictionary, and the Imperial Dictionary, all of which defined “fruit” as the seed of plants or that part of plants containing the seed, reinforcing the textbook categorization of the tomato as a fruit. (To the botanist or natural historian, that’s the final word. The tomato is a fruit of the vine.)

But then the court heard from longtime sellers of fruits and vegetables. The witnesses suggested, and the court agreed, that in the common language of consumers and sellers, tomatoes are considered more like other vegetables than fruits. As Justice Gray put it in his summary, “vegetables…are usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meat, which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits, generally as dessert.” To this day, tomatoes are classified as a vegetable in Chapter 7 of the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule.

We Grow a Lot More Tomatoes Today

The United States is one of the world’s leading producers of tomatoes, second only to China. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fresh and processed tomatoes generate more than $2 billion in annual U.S. farm cash receipts.

Every U.S. state produces fresh market tomatoes. About twenty produce at a commercial scale. California and Florida devote 30-40,000 acres each to fresh market tomato production – somewhere between two-thirds and three-fourths of production – followed by Virginia, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Michigan.

Trade Allows Us to Eat Tomatoes All Year

We grow a lot of tomatoes, but we also eat a lot of tomatoes. Commercial sales of fresh tomatoes in the United States are strongest in the spring when they aren’t competing with availability of local tomatoes. But we can enjoy fresh-market tomatoes all year-round because of imports. Mexico tends to fill in the seasonal supply gap for consumers in western U.S. states, and to a lesser degree in the east since Florida produces a winter crop. U.S. greenhouse and hydroponic tomatoes also make up some the difference, but generally, about one-third of the fresh tomatoes we consume are imported. Mexico also accounts for more than 70 percent of the U.S. import market for greenhouse tomatoes. Canada supplies another 27 percent.

Chapter 7 of the Tariff Schedule Again

Mexican producers are competitive with California and Florida producers in the U.S. market. Worried about imports from Mexico eating into their sales, U.S. tomato producers petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce to investigate whether Mexican producers were selling fresh-market tomatoes in the U.S. market below fair market value, undercutting the U.S. price. The investigation was suspended when Mexico entered into a negotiated agreement in 1996 that required the majority of fresh-market tomatoes imported from Mexico to adhere to an agreed minimum price.

In subsequent and more recent revisions to that agreement, the types of tomatoes covered under the agreement expanded, the tomato season was split into two periods to cover the summer and winter seasons —each with a separate minimum price, and the floor price was increased. The period between July 1 and October 22 targets competition between California and Baja, Mexico. From October 23 to June 30, Mexican fresh-market tomatoes must meet a higher minimum price to address competition between Florida and Sinaloa, Mexico. While we don’t impose duties on imports from our free trade agreement partners, the general duty for imports from other countries also varies depending on when in the growing season the tomatoes are imported. Either way, it’s the American consumer that foots the bill of the higher prices.

Outside North America, Azerbaijan is a Fast Grower

American fresh-tomato growers typically export 6 to 7 percent of their supply. About three-fourths of those exports go to Canada. U.S. exports to Mexico are a distant second. While American, Mexican — and to a lesser extent – Canadian, growers battle for North American market share, these fifteen countries globally exported the highest values of tomatoes during 2016, accounting for over 92 percent of global trade in tomatoes.

What might surprise you the most is the last four on this list. At number 13, Azerbaijan’s exports have grown 380 percent since 2012. China’s exports grew over that period by 119 percent, Belarus by 55.5 percent, and India grew its tomato exports by 42 percent.

World Tomato Exports in 2016

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Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fifteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

AFTE

AFTE SEEKS TO SHARPEN THE TEETH OF THE U.S.-MEXICO-CANADA AGREEMENT

The Alliance for Trade Enforcement—a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of trade associations and business groups dedicated to ending unfair trade practices—submitted a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to coincide with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s July 8 visit to the White House.

President López Obrador met with President Trump and senior administration officials to commemorate the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which entered into force that same day.

In the letter, AFTE commends Lighthizer for holding Canada and Mexico to the commitments outlined in USMCA, including the upholding of intellectual property protections, improving enforcement of Mexico’s anti-piracy strategy, and reducing barriers to the Canadian market for U.S. dairy farmers. But AFTE also urged the trade ambassador to continue working to eliminate unfair trade barriers that harm American companies and “workers in every industry, from manufacturing and agriculture to the biopharmaceutical and service sectors.”

“Our coalition looks forward to working with Ambassador Lighthizer to level the playing field between American businesses and our trading partners,” said AFTE Executive Director Brian Pomper.

canada

LATEST: Canada Announces Retaliatory Tariffs on U.S. Imports

On August 7, 2020, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that Canada will be imposing retaliatory tariffs on $2.7 billion worth of U.S. imports in response to President Trump’s decision to re-implement a 10% ad valorem tariff on non-alloyed unwrought aluminum from Canada (HTS subheading 7601.10).

During a news conference, Freeland stated, “We will impose dollar-for-dollar countermeasures in a balanced and perfectly reciprocal retaliation.” These decisions come after the two countries, along with Mexico, recently implemented the USMCA to further facilitate trade.

Following the announcement, the Canadian Department of Finance issued a notice containing a list of over sixty aluminum goods subject to a 10% rate that will take effect on September 16, 2020.

According to the notice, interested parties (Canadian companies or Canadian industry associations) should provide written comments by September 6, 2020 to fin.tariff-tarif.fin@canada.ca.

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Stephen Brophy is an attorney in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office focusing on international trade.

Turner Kim is an Assistant Trade Analyst in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office.

Camron Greer is an Assistant Trade Analyst in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office.

pork

BRINGING HOME THE BACON: U.S. PORK TRADE

The Year That Wasn’t

This year was supposed to mark a comeback for U.S. pork producers. Instead, the industry faces volatile markets and unprecedented supply chain disruptions. COVID-19’s domino effect on farmers, processors, retailers and consumers underscores the complexities of our modern food system.

In late April, meat industry executives warned the United States could soon face a meat shortage after processing facilities closed temporarily due to the spread of COVID-19 among employees. Total meat supplies in cold storage facilities across the United States totaled roughly two weeks’ worth of production. With processing at a standstill, meat supplies for retail grocery stores were expected to shrink by nearly 30 percent by Memorial Day, leading to increases in pork and beef price prices of as much as 20 percent, according to analysis by CoBank.

Shuttered plants also meant that farmers had nowhere to send their mature pigs, creating a massive livestock backlog. While many meat processors have re-opened as of May 2020, hog farmers may yet be forced to euthanize as many as seven million pigs in the second quarter of 2020, a loss valued at nearly $700 million. The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute forecasted a total loss of $2.2 billion for the U.S. pork industry in 2020 due to the pandemic.

US 3rd largest pork producer

Going Whole Hog on Exports

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States is the world’s third-largest producer and consumer of pork, shipping on average more than 5 billion pounds of fresh and frozen pork internationally each year since 2010.

But this dominant role in world pork trade is a fairly recent phenomenon. The United States became a net exporter of pork in 1995. Exports jumped from two percent of total production in 1990 to 21 percent in 2016. What made this spike possible?

The U.S. pork industry has gone through a major restructuring since the mid-1980s, shifting from small, independently owned operations to larger, vertically-integrated companies that contract with growers to raise pigs. This structure increased the industry’s productivity and year-round slaughter capacity. Between 1991 and 2009, the number of hog farms in the United States dropped by 70 percent but the number of hogs remained stable.

The National Pork Producers Council calculates that exports account for nearly 36 percent of the total $149 average value of a hog. While American pork is shipped to more than 100 countries, just four countries account for 75 percent of U.S. pork exports: Mexico, Japan, China, and Canada. It’s easy to see why implementation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is important to U.S. pork producers: Mexico alone accounts for about one-third of all exports by volume. U.S. exports of pork increased 1,550 percent in value since 1989, when the United States first implemented a free trade agreement with Canada.

U.S. pork producers mainly compete with pork producers in the European Union, Canada, and Brazil for sales in overseas markets. American farmers were concerned they could lose market share in Japan after the United States did not join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Japan made a trade deal with the European Union. Japan is the largest value market for U.S. pork and the second largest market by volume. However, pork exports there have been trending higher in 2020 following the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement.

Where US pork exports go

Higher on the Hog in China?

For the last two years, American pork producers have found themselves in the crosshairs of a trade war between the United States and China, a key export market. In April 2018, China levied a 25 percent retaliatory tariff on many U.S. pork imports in response to Section 232 tariffs put in place by the United States. In 2019, China again retaliated against American pork, this time in response to Section 301 tariffs.

Before the trade war, China was the second-largest market for U.S. farm exports (after Canada). In 2016, China purchased nearly $20 billion in American farm products but sales dropped sharply in 2018 to $7.9 billion.

The “Phase One” U.S.-China trade agreement went into effect on February 14, 2020. It includes a commitment from China to import an additional $12.5 billion in U.S. agricultural products during 2020 on top of a 2017 baseline of about $24 billion. The agreement also provides access for a larger variety of U.S. pork products and restores access for processed pork products, which had been blocked by China.

As part of this deal, on February 17 China announced tariff exclusions for 696 products, including pork. In the first quarter of 2020, China bought $5.05 billion in U.S. farm goods, up 110 percent from last year. China’s pork imports almost tripled from March 2019, reflecting a major domestic supply gap caused by African Swine Fever (ASF).

However, concerns remain if it is feasible for China to meet the purchase targets set in the agreement. Through March 2020, U.S. Census Bureau data show that U.S. agricultural exports to China were only at 37 percent of year-to-date targets. The American Farm Bureau Federation found that U.S. agricultural exports to China need to accelerate by 114 percent each month from May through the rest of the fiscal year to meet the “Phase One” target.

China ag purchases fall in trade war

Not Exactly “Year of the Pig” for Pork Industry

The possibility of U.S. sales to China going unfulfilled seems surprising. Another virus – ASF – has been ravaging China’s pork output since August 2018. ASF is a highly contagious, deadly pig disease with no known treatment or vaccine. It does not affect humans or food safety but it has had a devastating impact on China’s pork industry, the world’s largest, leaving a shortage in domestic supply.

Despite low officially reported cases of ASF, as many as 350 million pigs died from the disease in China during 2019. (And because the disease continues to spread across borders, one quarter of all the world’s pigs may die from ASF.) After more than a year of declining pork output, China’s total pork supply gap is estimated at 18 million tons – a figure much larger than total global supplies. Chinese consumers have faced record high prices for pork, traditionally their protein of choice. Some parts of the country also faced meat shortages due to disrupted supply chains during the COVID-19 quarantine.

To address persistent high prices, the Chinese government auctioned off a small amount of frozen pork from publicly held pork reserves, but the move was largely symbolic and had a limited short-term impact on prices. The government’s total pork reserve volumes are a national secret and not publicly available.

Enter: Coronavirus

As American hog farmers were positioning to fill China’s need to import more pork, enter the coronavirus in early 2020, which threw the U.S. pork market into extreme volatility.

After COVID-19 forced processing plants to temporarily close, U.S. pig prices dropped 27 percent in about a week, reducing profits for pig producers while consumers paid more for pork at the grocery store. The demand for meat often takes a hit during economic recessions as consumers keep a close eye on their grocery bill. At the same time, the industry lost major food service markets such as restaurants, universities, and elementary schools that were also shut down.

To help pork producers and other farmers, USDA on April 17 announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to provide $19 billion in emergency aid to farmers and ranchers hit by market disruptions. CFAP includes $16 billion in direct payments to producers and $3 billion in purchases of fresh produce, meat, and dairy products for distribution through food banks. USDA will purchase an estimated $100 million per month in pork and chicken, along with other food products, beginning in May. Nonetheless, an industry-funded analysis by Iowa State University found that American hog farmers will lose $5 billion (or $37 per pig) due to reduced prices for pork and shuttered processing plants.

US pork shipments to China

Saving Our Bacon

America’s pork industry has been beset with uncertainty in recent years. The latest Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer found that the unknowns surrounding the pandemic have further decreased farmer optimism to a four-year low, with 67 percent of farmers saying they are worried about the impact of the coronavirus on their business.

Prior to COVID-19, U.S. farmers were already reeling from lost sales due to China’s tariffs. The saving grace for U.S. pork producers now is that pork exports are actually ramping up.

During March and April, the number of pigs slaughtered per day decreased by 40 percent, but shipments of U.S. pork to China more than quadrupled, including whole carcasses as well as products that Americans generally don’t eat, like feet and organs. The U.S. Meat Export Federation estimated that so far in 2020, about 31 percent of U.S. pork has been exported with one-third of that volume going to China.

That means that in the near term, increasing exports will remain vital for the U.S. pork industry to weather the coronavirus storm as processing capacity gets back online and domestic sales begin to rebound.

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Sarah Hubbart provides communications strategy, content creation, and social media management for TradeVistas. A native of rural Northern California, Sarah has melded communications and policy throughout her career in Washington, D.C., serving in government affairs, issues management, and coalition building roles in the agricultural sector. She is an alum of California State University, Chico and George Washington University.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.
congress

DRIVING CONGRESS TO ACT ON NATIONAL SECURITY TARIFFS

Volkswagen GTI is turbocharged with room for…tariffs?

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is a perennial winner of Car and Driver’s 10Best award. The German-built sport hatchback combines “speed, handling, build quality, an attractive interior, and room for the family,” all for under $30,000. Car and Driver raves about the GTI’s turbocharged engine and notes it’s a formidable challenger to competing “hot hatches.”

Apparently, the U.S. Department of Commerce believes that the GTI poses another challenge — maybe a turbocharged threat to America’s national security.

In a still-confidential 2019 report, the Department reportedly found that imported autos like the GTI “threaten to impair the national security” and recommended that the president impose tariffs as high as 25 percent.

All revved up

The president would enact these tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. As TradeVistas’ Andrea Durkin has detailed, Section 232 is a little-used Cold War-era law under which Congress delegated broad authority to the president to restrict imports for national security reasons. The law is also the basis for current controversial duties on steel and aluminum.

The proposed tariffs have generated opposition from vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, economic analysts and members of Congress. The Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers notes that a 25 percent tariff on autos and parts would raise the price of an average imported car by an estimated $6,000 (and add $2,000 to a U.S.-built car) while potentially leading to the loss of over 600,000 American jobs. The Association of Global Automakers (now merged with the Auto Alliance to form the Alliance for Automotive Innovation) questions how passenger cars and light trucks are relevant to national security, suggesting that “America does not go to war in a Ford Fiesta.” Statements from Administration officials suggest that the “national security” justification for auto tariffs may be a pretext to gain negotiating leverage in other contexts.

Sourcing of US Light Vehicle Sales 2017

Congress may put the brakes on Presidential tariffs

With the possible exception of avid inventor Ben Franklin, America’s founders would be astounded by the GTI. They might be equally astonished, however, by the Trump Administration’s assertion of broad authority to impose tariffs. After fighting a revolution against “taxation without representation,” the founders believed it was vital to entrust the power to impose tariffs and other taxes to the people’s representatives. Specifically, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution vests Congress with the “power to lay and collect taxes [and] duties.”

Since 1934, after its disastrous experience with the Smoot-Hawley tariffs, Congress has increasingly delegated specific trade and tariff powers to the president, subject to a variety of limitations. Presidents have generally used these powers judiciously and to reduce tariffs to expand trade. For example, when President Kennedy signed the 1962 Trade Expansion Act (which enacted Section 232), he emphasized the importance of opening trade and reducing trade barriers and warned against “stagnating behind tariff walls.”

President Trump has taken a maximalist approach to his delegated powers to impose tariffs, particularly for “national security” reasons. In response, Congressional critics from both parties point out that under the Constitution, Congress should be the ultimate driver of tariffs, not the president.

Other concerns with the Administration’s application of national security tariffs include a lack of transparency in determining tariffs and administering tariff exclusions, its use of an overly broad definition of national security, and the cascading impacts on U.S. producers from higher metal prices. Legal experts are also concerned that the Administration did not follow the law when it imposed new tariffs on derivative steel products (including nails and bumpers) and when it extended its review of auto tariffs when time limits under Section 232 have likely expired.

Cost of Autos 232 Tariffs

Time for a trade law tune-up?

Congress could rein in presidential national security tariffs by simply repealing Section 232. However, even critics of current tariffs recognize that there are circumstances where the president might need authority to adjust trade in response to national security threats. Accordingly, Congress has focused instead on bipartisan proposals to place additional limits on the president’s ability to employ Section 232.

The Trade Security Act of 2019, introduced by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Representative Ron Kind (D-WI), would bifurcate the Section 232 process. The Department of Defense (DoD) would first investigate whether there is a national security basis for restricting imports of an article. If DoD finds that an article poses a security threat and the president decides to act, the Commerce Department would then recommend tariffs or other measures to address the threat. The Portman-Kind bill would also enable Congress to disapprove any Section 232 trade restriction imposed by the president through a resolution of disapproval that would itself be subject to a veto by the president. This legislation would not impact current Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum.

The Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019introduced by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI) would also require DoD to take the lead in investigating whether an article poses a national security threat, while also adopting a tighter definition of national security. Notably, under this legislation, no proposed Section 232 action by the president could take effect unless Congress first passes a resolution of approval. The Toomey-Gallagher bill would also (i) repeal current steel and aluminum duties unless Congress passes an expedited resolution of approval, (ii) direct the independent U.S. International Trade Commission to report to Congress on the economic impacts of Section 232 actions, and (iii) require that the USITC administer the tariff exclusion process for future Section 232 actions.

Two bills in Congress to brake 232

Getting out of neutral

For the past year, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has been attempting to meld the Portman and Toomey bills into a compromise measure that would attract veto-proof majorities in Congress. Despite considerable bipartisan support, Grassley notes that this effort has faced two challenges. First, there’s opposition from Republicans who see the legislation as a rebuke of President Trump. Second — as any student of U.S. trade history could have predicted —interests that benefit from new national security tariffs are now lobbying intensely to retain these tariffs. Despite this opposition, Grassley has vowed to continue efforts to enact Section 232 reform in 2020.

More potholes ahead?

Meanwhile, Volkswagen’s GTI and other imported autos will continue to face the threat of national security tariffs. And that threat won’t necessarily subside if a Democratic president takes office next year. Some Democrats have already proposed using the Trump Administration’s expansive reading of Section 232 to advance their own policy goals — particularly to address the climate crisis. Carbon-emitting autos like the GTI would be a prime target for new tariffs.

The GTI was designed for Germany’s smooth, high-speed autobahns. When it comes to U.S. national security tariffs, however, the GTI’s road ahead may continue to be full of potholes.

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Ed Gerwin

Ed Gerwin is a lawyer, trade consultant, and President of Trade Guru LLC.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

trump

Trump Signs USMCA Into Law But Not Everyone is Cheering

President Donald Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) into law at a Jan. 29 White House ceremony, officially canceling the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). “The USMCA is the largest, most significant, modern, and balanced trade agreement in history,” Trump told admirers and the press. “All of our countries will benefit greatly.”

“Thanks to the unyielding dedication of President Trump, the United States will now have a fair and reciprocal trade agreement with Mexico and Canada,” reacted U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “USMCA will bring jobs, increased trade and stronger economic growth to our already record-setting economy, growing GDP by as much as $235 billion and adding as many as 500,000 new jobs.

“President Trump has delivered on a promise,” Scalia continued. “This historic agreement will level the playing field for American workers, preparing American businesses for the demands of a 21st Century economy. The Department of Labor stands ready to fully implement USMCA to the benefit of American workers.”

An independent report by trade credit insurer Atradius found the USMCA “has reduced trade policy uncertainty in North America, shielding Mexico and Canada from any global tariffs on cars the U.S. might impose on national security grounds.”

But not everyone was cheering. “USMCA is only marginally better than previous trade deals and doesn’t do nearly enough to create American jobs, increase workers’ wages, or protect workers and the environment,” states Groundwork Collaborative, an initiative dedicated to advancing a coherent, persuasive progressive economic worldview and narrative. “Trade is like every other economic issue: It is only really working when it is working for ALL people, not just the wealthy and well-connected. USMCA doesn’t meet that standard and is a major missed opportunity.