Flake lifts hold on Doud nomination as USTR ag rep

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ, Feb. 1, released his hold on the nomination of Chief Agricultural Negotiator nominee Gregg Doud after successfully securing commitments on North American Free Trade Agreement-related trade priorities from both the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-UT.

Flake, who has long opposed protectionist efforts to restrict cross-border imports, first placed the hold in an effort to resolve concerns over attempts to use the ongoing NAFTA negotiations to add seasonal and regional components to existing trade remedies.

To that end, Flake has secured a written commitment from Hatch—whose committee would have to approve any revised trade agreement—to address those concerns. Flake also secured a commitment from USTR Ambassador Robert Lighthizer to meet with Arizona stakeholders who rely on NAFTA and would be negatively impacted by the proposed provision.

In a letter to Flake, Hatch said, “I appreciate your strong advocacy on behalf of the millions of Arizonans who have benefited from the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada and Mexico are our second and third largest agricultural export markets and important sources of off-season agricultural products for American families.

“I understand the concerns that you have expressed regarding certain proposals made by the Office of the United States Trade Representative during the ongoing NAFTA modernization negotiations concerning trade in seasonal products. I am committed to working with you to find a solution to your concerns and to achieve a modernized NAFTA that will benefit all American producers, services providers, and consumers, consistent with the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015.”

In reply, Flake said, “Given the importance of U.S. agriculture and what’s at stake for them in the NAFTA negotiations, I am pleased that this nomination can move forward. While certainly there are areas in the NAFTA agreement ripe for modernization, adding ill-advised seasonal or regional components to existing trade remedies would lead to needless trade restrictions, devastating economic consequences, and likely retaliation. I will continue to work toward a solution with the administration and Chairman Hatch as well as utilizing additional procedural tools at my disposal.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Craig Uden said in a statement following Flake’s announcement, “This is great news for America’s cattlemen and women, and for all agricultural producers. We’re glad that Sen. Flake has finally heard our call for him to drop his hold and allow Gregg Doud to start working to improve market access around the world for our producers.

“With talks continuing on NAFTA, the Korea-US trade agreement, and access to many other markets still up in the air, it’s imperative that the U.S. Senate now move as quickly as possible to confirm Doud’s nomination.”

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or [email protected].