“The world is watching.” That was the message Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said of U.S. trade negotiations. Directly, he was speaking of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Indirectly, Perdue says it impacts trade negotiations on a larger scale.
“If the United States cannot make an agreement with its closest neighbors to the north and south, both allies, politically, geopolitically, if we can't make it a deal there, then there's not any confidence we can make a deal with China, Japan, Korea, or anywhere else. And that's what the world's waiting on,” Perdue said.
He again called on Congress to pass the USMCA, saying it has bipartisan support. “When Congress gets back, I'm hoping that the speaker will bring it forward,” he said. "Honestly, I've been out in Democratic and Republican districts, ag districts all across this country. I have confidence that we pass both caucuses as a majority when she decides to bring it to the table.”
Still he remains concerned it will get caught up in 2020 presidential politics. “All it will take is one presidential candidate or wannabe out here saying the USMCA is bad. Then the herd mentality takes over,” he said.
Perdue added that USMCA needs to be passed sooner rather than later. “I truly believe this speaker wants to get it done,” he added. “USMCA is absolutely the best for America, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, line by line. It's a better deal for agriculture certainly, but also for manufacturing, for labor, for safety, for health as well as other areas.”
More than trade
Perdue walked around Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill. He made several stops, including a ride in a Case IH tractor. Perdue talked with farmers in the streets.
The secretary also shared his thoughts on oil refinery waivers. He told farmers President Donald Trump plans to travel to the Midwest “in a few weeks,” to offer a plan to offset the 31 refinery exemptions awarded earlier this month. To reclaim those gallons for ethanol requires legal wrangling. “To rescind gets us in legal quagmire,” Perdue said. Rather, he wants to offset the waivers with ethanol market growth.