May 15, 2017

Lighthizer to Kickstart Trade Talks

 |  By: Mike Opperman

Robert Lighthizer was recently names as the U.S. Trade Representative, and for ag groups his nomination came none too soon. The Senate approved his nomination 82-14, spurred by pressure from nearly every ag group to speed up the process.

Nearly 140 ag groups sent a letter to senators urging Lighthizer’s nomination, stating that his confirmation is “an essential step in enabling the U.S. government to put in place its team to engage robustly in trade negotiations on NAFTA and with Asia-Pacific nations to further enhance U.S. economic growth and job creation.”

Following his confirmation dairy groups showed their eagerness to work with Lighthizer to protect and expand market access for U.S. dairy while addressing problematic Canadian dairy policies. Lighthizer will begin work on a variety of pressing dairy trade policy issues, including the renegotiation of NAFTA, expanding market access channels in Asia, and preventing the loss of common food names.

“We welcome Mr. Lighthizer’ s confirmation because of his grasp of global trade rules and understanding of the importance of balanced trade agreements to the U.S. dairy sector,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “We will continue to urge USTR to focus on protecting Mexico, our No. 1 market, insist that Canada revoke its detrimental new milk pricing policy, and pursue additional export opportunities around the world.”

Another significant challenge for Ambassador Lighthizer is the European Union’s aggressive stance on the use of geographic indications (GIs). Not only must the United States resist using GIs at home, Lighthizer has said, it should discourage other countries from agreeing to use them, as well.

“As the Trump Administration’s trade policy strategy develops, we want to build upon the U.S. government’s past successes in pushing back against the EU’s global GI agenda,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC. “We also want to examine opportunities for bilateral trade agreements in key markets like Japan.”