During Monday’s White House Press Briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer took a couple questions on trade, including President Trump’s recent meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping and how the proposed 100-day plan with China will impact beef exports.
Q. You mentioned the 100 days that President and President of China agreed on. Did China offer to give U.S. concessions on beef exports and financial investments as part of that?
MR. SPICER: Look, this is an initial working plan that they’re going to try to hammer out what that 100 days looks like. And then they call them way stations — like what are those stops between a 100 days and now that would be things that both sides would be looking at. And I think obviously beef exports and additional market access in China, intellectual property, the ability to have foreign ownership, especially in the services industry, is something that has been of a prize of U.S. exporters and industry for a long time. But it is something that is being hammered out as we go forward.
In March, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sent a coalition letter to President Trump, urging him to raise the restoration of U.S. beef access to China during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in April.
American beef producers have been denied access to China – a $2.6 billion import market — since 2003. Last fall China announced that it had lifted its ban on imports of U.S. beef, but attempts since then to negotiate the technical terms of access have been unsuccessful.
Q What is the status of the renegotiation of NAFTA? And what is the White House doing to treat NAFTA in U.S. interests? And is there a concern about getting it done before the Mexican elections heat up at the end of the year?
MR. SPICER: Well, I think the first thing with respect to trade is we need to have the Senate to approve Robert Lighthizer as the next U.S. Trade Representative. That’s obviously — USTR drives that. And so our focus is getting that done, and then we’ll be ready to go. We still have an official 90-day notification that we have to give Congress, and so once we get Ambassador Lighthizer confirmed we’ll be ready to probably announce a better work plan on that. But as of right now, that’s not there.
More than 130 food and agricultural organizations sent a letter earlier this year to President Trump highlighting the importance of the NAFTA trade agreement to the industry and urging him to preserve and build upon that success. Under NAFTA, U.S. food and agricultural exports to Mexico and Canada have more than quadrupled, from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38.6 billion in 2015.
According to the National Corn Growers Association, U.S. corn farmers have benefited substantially from NAFTA. Mexico is the number one market for U.S. corn and the number two market for U.S. distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS).