Food & Agriculture
December 5, 2023

By Kristy Goodfellow, Vice President of Trade and Industry Affairs, and Jacob Berch, Trade and Economic Policy Intern


“I am glad to see that USDA is following through on its commitment to invest in strengthening trade opportunities, increase revenue streams, and help American farmers thrive in a global economy. Farmers have been clear that this is one of their top priorities. Today’s announcement will develop new markets for American agriculture and put American-grown food on tables around the world. I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and farmers on this exciting new program that will effectively double trade promotion investments.”

—Sen. Debbie Stabenow

Regional Trade Agreements


  • After two decades, leaders in the EU and Mercosur are signaling that their free trade agreement is close to concluding.
  • Assumptions are that this would drive up exports of food and agricultural products from Mercosur and could undercut some U.S. exports.
  • Reuters reports that Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will discuss the conclusion of the negotiations during their meeting at CO28.
  • As part of the normal transparency function of the WTO, WTO members reviewed FTAs that have recently entered into force, including five for the U.K. and two for the European Free Trade Association—EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland).
  • U.K. agreements under review were with Central America, the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and Mozambique, Moldova, Albania, and Georgia. All of these agreements entered into force in 2021. Most duties will be eliminated, with the exception of SACU which will maintain a 13.5% common external tariff, and Mozambique, which will maintain a 59.7% tariff.
  • The EFTA’s agreements with Ecuador, entered into force in 2020, and with Indonesia, entered into force in 2021, were also under review.
  • Since the United States concluded its last new FTA in 2012, 124 regional trade agreements have been signed.

Food Safety


  • On Nov. 28, the Codex Alimentarius Commission voted to adopt MRLs for zilpaterol hydrochloride after over a decade of debate.
  • Zilpaterol is used as a growth promoter in cattle.
  • The CODEX announcement states that, “[t]he FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), which is comprised of international experts, concluded that there is no evidence or data suggesting that the exposure of consumers to residues of zilpaterol in food respecting the MRLs recommended by JECFA, would impact negatively on human health. The Commission accepted these findings.”
  • Discussion of the MRL has concluded until any new data is presented and a member expresses the need to revisit the issue.
Photo from Department of Agriculture Twitter Feed

Trade Promotion


  • On Nov. 29, USDA announced the opening period for applications for the new Regional Agricultural Promotion Program.
  • USDA announced that it will fund up to $300 million in the first year of the program.
  • Funding is coming from the Commodity Credit Corporation and is intended to provide support for specialty crop industries to diversify exports.
  • U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, who had requested the program, applauded the announcement, saying, “I am glad to see that USDA is following through on its commitment to invest in strengthening trade opportunities, increase revenue streams, and help American farmers thrive in a global economy. Farmers have been clear that this is one of their top priorities. Today’s announcement will develop new markets for American agriculture and put American-grown food on tables around the world. I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and farmers on this exciting new program that will effectively double trade promotion investments.”

Trade Policy


Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, present at PEC meeting
  • The President’s Export Council (PEC), which functions as the principal national advisory committee on international trade, met last week with top White House officials. The meeting served to deliberate on recommendations related to the expansion of U.S. exports, including a series of recommendations on promoting U.S. agriculture trade. These recommendations were also supported through an agriculture industry association letter to the PEC. The list of PEC recommendations for expanding export opportunities in the agricultural sector are as follows:
    • Increase collaboration on diversifying the U.S. agricultural supply chain
    • Establish a robust agricultural trade agenda
    • Enforce existing trade agreements
    • Lead on international sustainability and climate efforts
  • Some of the White House officials present at this meeting included Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. Other topics discussed included strengthening U.S. leadership in clean technologies and climate solutions and enhancing U.S. manufacturing competitiveness.


  • The most recent projections from the USDA predict an agricultural trade deficit of $30.5 billion for 2024, an increase from the $27.5 billion trade deficit forecast in August. This would constitute almost double the ag trade deficit projections for 2023, which the USDA had previously estimated at $16.7 billion. The U.S. has averaged an ag trade surplus of $12.5 billion over the past 10 years, making this a marked shift in traditional trade trends, according to Politico. More information on the updated ag trade outlook for 2024 when compared to the August report can be found below:
    • U.S. agricultural exports projected at $169.5 billion, down $2.5 billion
    • Wheat exports forecast down $800 million, to $6 billion, on lower unit values and competition from Russia and the EU
    • Corn exports forecast down $500 million, to $12.8 billion, due to lower unit values and ample global supplies
    • Sorghum exports down $200 million when compared to the August forecast due to smaller U.S. crop
    • Livestock, poultry, and dairy exports forecast down $1.3 billion, to $36.3 billion, across most products
    • Soybean exports projected $500 million lower, to $26 billion, on lower exportable supplies
    • Oilseed/product exports forecast at $37.2 billion, down $300 million
Table from the USDA Outlook for U.S. agricultural trade: November 2023 report



  • At COP28 in Dubai, the WTO Secretariat published 10 trade policy tools to assist governments with reaching global climate targets. These tools highlight how trade policy measures, such as reassessing import tariffs on low-carbon solutions, can be incorporated into national strategies on combatting climate change. The full report can be found here.
    • Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stated in a foreword to the report, “In this publication, the WTO Secretariat explores 10 trade policy tools that can accelerate progress towards climate goals. Each element could be integrated into nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and national adaptation plans (NAPs) as economies look to ratchet up the ambition of their climate strategies.”
    • The 10 trade policy action recommendations are as follows:
      • Introducing trade facilitation measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with cumbersome border customs procedures
      • Deploying green government procurement policies
      • Using international standards to avoid fragmentation when upgrading energy efficiency regulations
      • Reviewing regulations and restrictions on providers of climate-related services to support climate mitigation and adaptation efforts
      • Rebalancing import tariffs to increase the uptake of low-carbon technologies
      • Reforming environmentally harmful subsidies to unlock additional resources for climate action
      • Facilitating and increasing trade finance to support the diffusion of climate-related technologies and equipment
      • Improving how food and agricultural markets function to support climate adaptation and mitigation by easing trade in food
      • Strengthening sanitary and phytosanitary systems to protect economies from the spread of disease, pests, and other related risks heightened by climate change
      • Improving the coordination of climate-related internal taxes, including carbon pricing and equivalent policies, to reduce policy fragmentation and compliance costs


  • A virtual mini-ministerial took place aiming to guide agricultural negotiators leading up to the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in February of 2024.
  • The meeting involved the participation of about two dozen ministers, including the UAE’s Foreign Trade Minister Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi and WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
    • Minister Al Zeyoudi, the chair of the meeting, stated, “The food security package achieved at MC12 constituted a significant emergency response, but far more remains to be done to structurally address the expected devastating impacts of climate change and how to feed sustainably and equitably a growing world population which is estimated to reach 10 billion by 2050. The sector also has to adapt as it is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.”
    • Director-General Okonjo-Iweala further stated, “I’m hopeful that the exercise of flexibility, where appropriate, will enable us to reach outcomes [at MC13] that would eventually constitute a meaningful step towards strengthening the multilateral trading system. More importantly, these steps would allow agriculture to address the contemporary challenges that we face today.”

Climate and Environment


Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken
  • Last week at COP28, 134 world leaders signed the Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action. The declaration addresses the need for global food systems to urgently adapt and respond to climate change. The declaration was reportedly announced at a special session of the World Climate Action Summit (WCAS), led by Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia; Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister of Italy; Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, Prime Minister of Samoa; and Anthony J. Blinken, Secretary of State for the U.S. Within the declaration, five key objectives were outlined:
    • Scaling up adaptation and resilience activities to support vulnerable farmers
    • Promoting food security and nutrition
    • Supporting agricultural workers
    • Strengthening integrated water management
    • Maximizing climate and environmental benefits of agriculture and reducing harmful impacts from food systems
  • Recall that world leaders, government officials, and civil society are gathering for COP28, which runs from Nov. 30-Dec. 12, 2023, and is being hosted by the UAE.