Concerns over trade won't come from the White House – they will come from Congress, predicts farm policy analyst Barry Flinchbaugh, a Kansas State University Economist speaking at last week's Farm Futures Management Summit held in Indianapolis, Ind.
"We are entering an era of protectionism, but it appears the president is not buying into that," he says. As proof, Flinchbaugh notes that Obama has appointed trade-friendly people to key positions including Paul Volcker, one of the President's Chief Economic Advisers, and Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative-designee.
U.S. ag trade already faces non-political challenges. It is expected to decline from record highs of $115 billion last year due to recession, lower global demand and the stronger dollar.
"The real problem with trade will be in Congress," says Flinchbaugh. "The Colombian Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has no downside, but we slapped that country in the face. Madam speaker is holding up the agreement. Frankly, she knows that if it's allowed to come up in the house, it will pass."
Flinchbaugh has been "pleasantly surprised" by the new administration. "It's a centrist administration, right down the middle," he says. "I can't quarrel with the cabinet, especially the Secretary of Agriculture." He notes that the last three Ag Secretaries were first governors of Midwestern states.
"That's not a bad trend because governors of Corn Belt and High Plains states understand agriculture."