Clayton Yeutter, former U.S. trade representative and U.S. secretary of agriculture, and Darci Vetter, chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the United States Trade Representative, talked about the history of international trade and opportunities in the current U.S. trade agenda during a Heuermann Lecture panel discussion Jan. 12 at Nebraska Innovation Campus.
Yeutter, a world-renowned trade expert who served four U.S. presidents, outlined the history of international trade that began following World War II and for a significant amount of time did not involve agriculture. It wasn’t until Yeutter began working with the Nixon administration that agriculture became a part of trade agendas in foreign countries. He continued these efforts over four decades in the government and private sector, having an impact on economies worldwide.
“Clayton helped set the table for the work that I do today, and formed the foundation that guides the way we all negotiate trade,” Vetter said.
Vetter has used that foundation to maneuver through negotiating formulas with two different sets of countries through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is an ambitious, comprehensive and high-standard trade and investment agreement being negotiated between the United States and the European Union. Vetter admitted that negotiations on this agreement have been slow going because of the EU’s high tariffs on agriculture, high sanitary regulations and slow approval system of products involving biotechnology.
The other agreement presents tremendous opportunity for the United States. Vetter said the Trans-Pacific Partnership is important because it creates the highest standards ever put together in a trade agreement and creates opportunity to influence those standards with those who would like to do business in the region. There are 12 countries involved in the agreement, with others eager to join once it is signed.
Yeutter said the United States needs to take advantage of the opportunities that the Trans-Pacific Partnership provides, such as trade with Japan.
“From the standpoint of agriculture, if you don’t have Japan, you don’t have much,” Yeutter said.
Japan has historically been resistant to bring products to the trading table. However, now that Japan has joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership, new products such as their culturally valued rice could be available.
“The allure of these 12 countries and the depth of commitment they are willing to make to each other has allowed Japan to say that every product, without exception, is on the table,” Vetter said.
One of the obstacles Vetter will face in moving negotiations forward with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership is that she’s working during a presidential election year. With the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Vetter said it’s important to talk about what the agreement means so people understand that it’s not a difficult decision.
“Agriculture is a place where you can run the numbers and show that there’s a huge opportunity here,” Vetter said.
Yeutter and Vetter reinforced that trade is not a political issue and affects everyone from Nebraskans to economies worldwide.
“One of the reasons that I love to work on trade is because it is bipartisan,” Vetter said. “The benefits accrue very broadly for the whole population but it’s really up to you to tell the story about what trade means for your pockets and how you spend that money in your community.”
Heuermann Lectures in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL are possible through a gift from B. Keith and Norma Heuermann of Phillips. The Heuermanns are longtime university supporters with a strong commitment to Nebraska’s production agriculture, natural resources, rural areas and people. Lectures stream live here and are archived at the site soon afterward. They also air on NET2 World at a later date.