President Obama's State of the Union proposal to create a new trade enforcement unit to go after unfair trade practices around the world is not being embraced at the American Farm Bureau Federation. AFBF Trade Adviser Dave Salmonsen argues the current agency set-up on trade enforcement works. He says there's always a cry to enforce existing trade deals - the question is resources.
"The idea of it is to make it a bigger part of our trade policy and probably put more resources behind it," Salmonsen said. "That will have to be judged against the budget that Congress is willing to put behind these matters."
As for the administration's proposal to consolidate the U.S. Trade Representative's office in the Commerce department, Salmonsen is even more direct, saying they don't like that and feel USTR functions better the way it is currently set up.
Salmonsen says the U.S. Trade Representative is the point person for the U.S. Trade Policy and meets with foreign trade ministers and heads of state. The Commerce Secretary does many other things and could end up diluting the USTR's advocacy for trade.
According to Salmonsen more staff at USTR would go a long way to boosting trade enforcement and would complement the work of trade agencies inside commerce.
Meanwhile Salmonsen agrees with President Obama that the nation is on track to double exports, especially in agriculture, during in the next five years. However based on warnings of a recession in the Eurozone and a new global slowdown there may be a decrease in agricultural exports.
"China is our number one agricultural export destination," Salmonsen said. "If China is not doing as well, and looking at the situation in Europe and Japan, if those economies aren't doing as well, they'll buy less and that will obviously put pressure on our ag exports."
U.S. ag exports hit a record in 2011 - and this year's forecast is down a bit - but still very strong.