Former USDA Secretaries Johanns, Vilsack Hope for Quick Trade Resolution

April 2, 2018 By Tom Steever

Two former U.S. agriculture secretaries express hope that trade tensions between the U.S. and China will soon be over.  China is making good on tariff threats, imposing about $3 billion worth on 128 products ranging from pork to steel pipes.

The Chinese Ministry of Finance issued its order over the weekend suspending tariff reductions on 120 U.S. products and adding 25 percent to the current tariffs of eight other products including pork.

Former Secretary Mike Johanns, who served the second Bush Administration, told Brownfield Ag News he would treat China the way he would expect to be treated, but he adds that China’s trade policies are not always acceptable to the U.S.

“Pushing against China is not a bad idea, in my personal opinion,” Johanns told Brownfield Monday, “but I hope this doesn’t go on forever, because pork producers, for example, are going to feel the effects of this.”

Of the 128 items on China’s tariff list, 86 of them are agricultural products.  The remaining products are specific U.S. steel and aluminum products.  Some of the 120 products that will see a 15% tariff include oranges, cranberries, almonds, wine, ethanol, and ginseng.

President Obama’s Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, told Brownfield he’d like to see an outcome that increases export sales for U.S. farmers, considering current price pressure on commodities.

“The hope is that we figure out a way to navigate these tricky issues in a way that ultimately expands opportunity for our producers and for consumers in other countries,” said Vilsack, during an interview with Brownfield.

China’s WH Group owns Smithfield Foods, a major U.S. pork processor.  It’s unclear if China will exempt WH Group from the tariffs.  Although the Shanghai stock market went up about half a percent, WH Group’s stock dropped more than 8% after the tariff announcement.
The National Pork Producers Council says the U.S. exported more than a billion dollars’ worth of pork to China last year, making that country the third biggest market for U.S. pork.

JohannsMike Johanns was the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 2005-2007 as well as the Governor of Nebraska from 1999-2005 and the state’s U.S. Senator from 2009-2015. As alliantgroup’s Chairman of Agriculture, Johanns brings more than 30 years of experience at virtually every level of government and a strong background in both agriculture and economic development. As the Secretary of Agriculture, he managed 18 different agencies, opened or expanded access to 40 international markets and was responsible for multiple agricultural breakthroughs as a negotiator for the Doha Development Round.