Trade is the dominant issue as Nebraska hosts the 50th annual Midwest U.S. – Japan Association Conference.
Gov. Pete Ricketts is quick to point out neither he nor the other governors, nor the Japanese delegation attending the conference have a direct say in trade relationships. Still, trade, especially in the aftermath of the U.S. rejection of the Trans Pacific Partnership, is the topic of discussion during the conference.
“Certainly, I was a supporter of TPP, but the current administration has a different strategy for how they want to pursue trade relationships,” Ricketts tells Brownfield Ag News. “It’s a bilateral model and that’s what we should pursue.”
TPP was an ambitious trade agreement the United States negotiated with 11 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam). President Obama aggressively pushed TPP but couldn’t get it through Congress before his presidency ended. It became a hot political issue in the 2016 presidential elections with President Donald Trump harshly critical of it.
The Trump Administration has backed away from multi-national trade agreements, preferring instead direct talks with individual countries.
President Trump has criticized the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The administration recently reached an agreement with Mexico. Negotiations continue with Canada. It is uncertain whether a modernized NAFTA will emerge from those talks or whether the United States will settle for separate trade agreements.
The president has asked farmers to be patient with trade talks, arguing short-term pain will be worth the long-term gain of future trade deals.
State Agriculture Director Steve Wellman says he’s not sure if their patience is running out.
“Farmers are persistent, but we want what’s best for all of us, not only agriculture, but for the country,” Wellman tells Brownfield.
Japan is Nebraska’s top trading partner outside North America.
The Midwest U.S. – Japan Association is comprised of 10 midwestern American states. The conference in Omaha has attracted nearly 400 U.S. and Japanese business executives and government officials, including trade officials with the Trump Administration.
Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, contributed to this report.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]