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Ambassador: Agriculture trade plays vital role in Va. economy

NORFOLK—International trade is an important part of the state and U.S. economy.

In 2010, U.S. agricultural exports reached a record high of $115 billion. This year they are projected to top $126 billion. Virginia exported $2.24 billion in agricultural goods in 2010 and is on track to meet or exceed that amount this year.

The world has changed significantly since the first round of Doha trade agreements in November 2001, said Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, chief agriculture trade negotiator, U.S. Trade Representative, who spoke March 16 at Virginia’s third annual Agricultural Trade Workshop. The two-day event was sponsored by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the Virginia Port Authority and Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

The Doha Development Agenda is the current trade-negotiation round of the World Trade Organization. Its objective is to lower trade barriers around the world, allowing countries to increase trade.

Doha negotiations stalled in 2008 due to a divide on major issues—including agriculture—and the negotiations that are being developed now need to be assessed based on the world today, Siddiqui said.

"More market access is needed, and the Obama administration is actively engaged with other countries and is committed to balancing the Doha negotiations and the global market around the world," he said.

Siddiqui said U.S. markets are open to imports, more than any other country in the world, but the United States needs to know what it’s getting in return because no agreement is better than a bad agreement.

"It is critical for us to bring buyers and sellers to the market, since 95 percent of the world’s population lives outside of the United States," he said. "We have high-quality agriculture products that the world wants to buy. American agriculture drives more successful agriculture exports than any part of the world."

There are growth opportunities in many countries, and U.S. agriculture is in a great position right now, because prices are high and supplies are tight.

For example, by finalizing the South Korea Free Trade Agreement, the United States could gain $10 billion in increased exports and 7,000 jobs.

"We need to remember how important international trade is and how producers depend on it and that it is as relevant today as it was years ago," Siddiqui said. "We want to maintain the markets we have plus open new markets."

Contact Spencer Neale, VFBF senior assistant director of commodity marketing, at 804-290-1153.

Posted in: Agriculture Trade


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