Rebel attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea are disrupting grain shipments from Europe, Ukraine, and Russia to customers in East Africa and Asia, with the potential to drive up food costs in import-dependent countries, said a think tank blog on Wednesday. “While this worst-case scenario for the Red Sea crisis is still unlikely, the current disruption is a reminder of the fragility of supply chains and the need for countries to be flexible in sourcing food when disruptions occur.”
International trade discussions are seeing a new dynamism now that the WTO is focused on updating and reforming its rules, said U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai. In a speech to a Washington think tank, Tai said the ministerial conference scheduled for February should "lock in progress on areas where we can agree."
Both the United States and its partners benefit from free trade agreements (FTAs), judging by the increased volumes of food and agricultural commerce between the nations, concluded a USDA analysis of 14 pacts covering a total of 20 countries. "Trends suggest that agricultural trade increased for many of these countries," said the study. "Another change was a trend toward specialization in certain products."
Nearly one-third of the people in 77 low- and middle-income countries are food insecure, meaning they lack consistent access to enough food for a healthy and active lifestyle, said an annual USDA report. The 9.8-percent increase to 1.3 billion people this year included 41.7 million affected by higher food, fuel and fertilizer costs attributed to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
On a voice vote, the Senate passed a shipping reform bill on Thursday that would make it harder for ocean carriers to unreasonably refuse to load U.S. goods ready for shipment at ports.
Propelled by the global economic recovery from the pandemic, U.S. farm exports will set back-to-back sales records this fiscal year and in the new year beginning on Oct. 1, the government forecast on Thursday. China would account for $1 of every $5 in exports during the two-year span, with annual purchases running more than $10 billion above its previous record, set in 2014.
The Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, concluded in 1994, created tariff-rate quotas for agriculture with the expectation that they would be a stepping stone to freer trade. Instead, most of those TRQs are still in place and new WTO members have added 43 more, says a report by three USDA researchers.
World leaders must remain vigilant to keep food trade flowing during the pandemic and to continue using trade as a lever to improve farm income and productivity, said the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization on Sunday. Speaking during the Group of 20 summit held online, director general Qu Dongyu said, "It is essential for the G20 to keep working on preventing this health crisis from becoming a global food crisis."
The world's grain reserves are large, with a bumper crop on the horizon, but the coronavirus pandemic has already inspired agricultural protectionism in a small number of countries, said analysts in a think tank paper this week. Separately, former Agriculture Undersecretary Catherine Woteki said protectionist policies could spark "food nationalism" at a time when trade could minimize food shortages. (No paywall)
Americans will eat more chicken, already their favorite meat, as stay-at-home orders have consumers shopping at the supermarket rather than going to restaurants, said ag lender CoBank on Thursday in assessing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on food producers and processors. (No paywall)
On Monday, the United States asked the World Trade Organization to swat down retaliatory duties levied by China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and Turkey on U.S. exports as a violation of WTO rules. The move is the latest in the tit-for-tat trade war that began in April.
Farmers are among President Trump's staunchest supporters, and they have a response to his threats to scrap NAFTA and rewrite other trade agreements: "Without those global markets, our already-depressed farm economy would go down even more," said Zippy Duvall, leader of the largest U.S. farm group. "Trade should not be a dirty word," Duvall told the estimated 7,000 attendees at American Farm Bureau Federation convention, where Trump is scheduled to speak this afternoon.
While in Hamburg, Germany, for the G20 summit, President Trump met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, for the first time since the start of the American leader’s term. Nieto’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, predicted that NAFTA talks with begin August 16.
After meeting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Canada's foreign minister said her country "would respond appropriately" if the United States pushes for new tariffs on Canadian products as part of NAFTA negotiations, said Reuters. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could meet President Trump as early as next week; NAFTA would be a top issue.
What you eat depends largely on where you live, despite the year-round cornucopia of food made available by international trade, says a team of biologists and economists.
The new World Trade Outlook Indicator (WTOI) will "provide 'real time' information on trends in global trade," said its parent agency, the World Trade Organization. Launched ahead of the meeting of G-20 trade ministers in Shanghai over the weekend, the indicator showed trade in raw agricultural products was growing faster than expected while overall, global trade would continue to be sluggish in July and August.
The Port of Churchill, which includes the northern-most grain export terminal in Canada, and the railroad that serves it are for sale, says the Western Producer. Located on Hudson Bay, Churchill is the only Arctic seaport in Canada.
At annual U.S.-China trade talks, China "indicated today it would move quickly to review the 11 agricultural biotechnology events [GMO crop varieties] pending approval, and continue our dialogue on access for U.S. beef," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a U.S. statement. "My hope is that over the next 30 to 60 days, these words are met with consistent action."