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Last week marked the annual release of the National Trade Estimate (NTE) to Congress by the Offices of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR). The NTE report is a 474-page- list of trade barriers facing U.S. companies and producers. It documents a range of trade barriers, including Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS), technical and market access restrictions. USW submitted a host of concerns to USTR on October 28, 2015.

The report highlights a few major accomplishments from 2015, including completion of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and the U.S. ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement — the first multilateral trade agreement in the WTO’s 20-year history. Beyond the successes of the past year, the report also lays out a roadmap of future work for USTR. Numerous wheat industry priorities made the listing, two of which are highlighted here.

A new addition to the 2016 report was China’s administration of their tariff-rate quota (TRQ) system, which Chinese millers and USW have repeatedly identified as a major hurdle in expanding the use of U.S. wheat in China. The report stated, “Market access promised through the tariff-rate quota system set up pursuant to China’s WTO accession agreement has yet to be fully realized.” Each year China completely uses the portion of the TRQ allocated directly to flour millers. However, the portion held by the state is not fully utilized and almost never reallocated as required by the WTO agreement.

China is not the only country where a TRQ keeps out potential wheat exports. Nearly two decades ago, Brazil committed to a 750,000 ton duty-free TRQ. The NTE report notes that Brazil never opened the TRQ, and therefore has imported no wheat under it. Without either ad hoc access, which Brazil opened in 2013 and 2014, or a functioning TRQ, Brazilian millers must pay a 10 percent tariff to purchase supplies anywhere outside of the Mercosur trade bloc. That leaves the United States, Canada and others at a significant price disadvantage.

These two barriers are just a preview of the issues listed by USTR. USW will continue to work with our partners to pursue resolutions to these barriers that hinder our customer’s ability to purchase U.S. wheat.

By Dalton Henry, USW Director of Policy

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By Ben Conner, USW Deputy Director of Policy

A professor once told me this about achieving goals: “If you don’t write it down, it will never happen.” On behalf of the farmers we represent, USW takes a similar approach to our policy priorities: we write them down for the board to review every year. That happened again last week at the USW Board of Directors meeting in Washington, DC.

USW divides policy goals into three general categories: the World Trade Organization (WTO), free trade agreements (FTAs) and U.S. government policies. USW priorities in all three categories reflect our mission, which is ultimately to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat producers and their customers.

The WTO category includes both trade enforcement and negotiations. A major policy priority is to ensure that wheat-producing countries follow WTO rules. Right now, a number of major developing countries are blatantly ignoring those rules, costing U.S. farmers in the form of lower exports and prices, and hurting their overseas customers in the form of more expensive domestic supplies. Studies conducted for USW estimated U.S. wheat farmers are losing more than $1 billion in revenue from domestic support policies in just four countries: China, Turkey, Brazil and India. Some of those countries have blatantly ignored WTO import rules in order to protect domestic wheat sectors. That is unacceptable and underscores the need to enforce past trade commitments. Similarly, our board supports negotiations through the WTO that create a more level playing field, but opposes rules that weaken current disciplines in the WTO Agreement on Agriculture or in continued negotiations under the failed Doha framework.

Free Trade Agreements are another priority. If the WTO negotiations remain at an impasse, aggressive market access gains will only come through bilateral regional sectoral trade agreements. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is now signed and, hopefully, will soon be ratified by legislatures including the U.S. Congress. Beyond that, the wheat industry is hoping for rapid TPP expansion to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region as well as to new FTA opportunities.

Finally, U.S. government policies also affect U.S. wheat export potential. One of our priorities is on-going funding for the beneficial federal market promotion programs that — along with investment from state wheat commissions — help organizations like USW provide valuable services and information to customers around the world. USW also supports an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

Now that we have written our 2016 Policy Priorities, it is time to make it happen. We are passionate about the profitability of farmers and their overseas customers, so we will be working hard to remove the policy obstacles in the way.