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John Block Reports: Equality

By Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, John R. Block.

We all know or should know that we’re going to have a $1.9 trillion relief package.  It does target the needy, the hungry, and unemployed.  But there are billions and billions for others to buy political support.

Enough on that subject.  There are other developments that can make a difference.  Let’s talk trade.  There has been a long-standing dispute with the European Union over subsidies of Airbus and Boeing.  The US and EU have agreed to have a 4-month tariff suspension.  Hopefully, we can find a resolution.  President Trump was convinced that the EU subsidies on Boeing put our country at a serious disadvantage.  It turned into a tariff war – $7.5 billion tariff on European wine.  Europe put a $4.5 billion tariff on US whiskey.  The battle escalated when President Trump increased and expanded his tariffs to 25% on all wine imports from France and Germany.  It is time to negotiate this dispute and put it behind us.  I have some friends that want a resolution.  They want French wine.

The Distilled Spirits Council is reminding us that “Lifting the tariff burden will support the recovery of restaurants, bars, and small craft distilleries across the country that were forced to shut down during the pandemic.”  That could just settle one dispute.  President Trump imposed levies on imported steel and aluminum from the EU.  Europe retaliation shut the door on our whiskey exports and more.  I am still hopeful that we can iron out some of these trade conflicts to our advantage.

Another hopeful development is that the US and the UK are beginning to lift some tariffs.  Our bars will be happy to see the tariff on scotch whiskey eliminated.  Since we are talking trade, it is time to negotiate with Cuba.  They can be a good market for our ag products.  They are only 90 miles from our shore.  Over the years I have been to Cuba 3 times working to expand trade.

Just when I think we can make some progress, something happens to poison the deal.  Well, it’s time to try again.  As we try to review and resolve our trade disputes, I don’t think it is wise to just walk away from all tariffs and give up.  President Trump was strong in demanding fair trade.  Let’s negotiate good deals that are fair.  President Biden realized that the phase one deal with China resulted in a $27 billion market for ag products last year which happen to be a record level of exports to that country.  There is a lot more to do.

John Block served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill. John hosts a weekly radio show going back more than 20 years. The commentary and opinions shared are a summary of the discussion from the broadcast and not a reflection of the opinions of the firm at large. For more from John Block Reports from Washington visit


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