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Cargill exec warns world risks sliding into isolationism

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'Trade has been disregarded, it's been misunderstood and often it has been villainized.'

by Mario Parker

The largest agricultural merchant is worried about the state of global trade.

An executive at Cargill Inc., America’s largest private company, said Tuesday the world risks sliding into isolationism amid current international trade disputes.

“Trade has been disregarded, it’s been misunderstood and often it has been villainized,” Devry Boughner Vorwerk, the company’s corporate vice president of global corporate affairs, said Tuesday in remarks at Devex World 2018, a conference in Washington about international development.

If advocates and activists don’t set expectations that "governments come together around responsible trade, then we run the risk (that) isolationism becomes the order of the day," she added.

The comments are the latest public defense from Cargill of a system of global trade that’s under increasing assault as the U.S. and China impose or threaten to implement tariffs on certain commodities and a range of other products. 

The 153-year-old company has previously warned that about 10% of its global revenue is related to the North American Free Trade Agreement, an accord that’s the subject of rancorous renegotiation. “It is time for NAFTA to be seen as the development tool that it is," Boughner Vorwerk said.

She also called for the lifting of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, and the opening up of North Korea to trade following the conclusion of the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. 

"My hope is that the 25 million citizens of North Korea can go from dark to light," Boughner Vorwerk said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave a somewhat rosier outlook for foreign sales of American farm products. Pork exports this year may rise 6.4 percent, more than forecast in May, the USDA said Tuesday in a monthly report. The agency cited “continued strong shipments to a number of key markets and expectations of continued pork exports to Mexico” in 2018. 

To contact the reporter on this story: Mario Parker in Chicago at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Casey at [email protected]

Patrick McKiernan

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P

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