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John Block Reports: Trade

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

Politicians here in DC are always looking for someone to blame for all the problems that we face.  China is at the top of that list.  Congress is writing a powerful anti-China package of bills.  There is no question about it.  China has been aggressive, and not a good neighbor with countries close at hand.  Also, they have had a campaign of genocide and forced labor on their own people in Northwestern China.  We know they have a system to steal technology from the US and other countries.  So why not hammer China?  Politically that could be very popular.  I’m not against calling them out for some of their actions, but we don’t need another Cold War.  President Trump imposed heavy tariffs on China, and President Biden has not lifted them.  However, it is time to sit down with the number two country in the world.  They are just behind us.

Beating up on China may be good politics but not good business.  The Phase One trade deal with China is still in place.  For the ag industry, they are our biggest market.  We can continue to push the Chinese to reform, but increase cooperation and negotiate in good faith.  We have serious trade conflicts with other countries – in some cases trusted allies like Europe.  President Biden and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai have agreed with the European Commission Executive Vice President to resolve trade differences by end of the year.  That won’t be easy.  President Trump imposed steel and aluminum Tariffs.  And U.S. steel and aluminum companies love it.  But it has not worked.

The tariffs have hurt our own companies that buy steel.  Besides that – Europe continues to use non-tariff barriers to close the door on our GE crops. Our U.S. Trade Representative Tai reminds us that when it comes to China, the U.S. and EU are on the same page. “We can partner to promote high standards, address shared concerns, and hold countries like China that support trade – distorting policies to account.”

The U.S., Canada, and Mexico met this week to try to settle a list of differences over the USMCA agreement.  Mexico and Canada are our closest neighbors, and we can’t even get along.  Our dairy farmers are not happy with Canada’s trade restrictions.  Trade disputes never end.

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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