NC Commissioner Steve Troxler: Recent Trade Agreements Positive Signs for N.C. Ag Economy

Commissioner Steve Troxler says the signing of a Phase 1 trade agreement with China, plus Congressional approval of a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, both point to positive signs that this could be a rebuilding year for North Carolina farmers and agriculture.

  • Well, I’d say agriculture got some pretty good news last week with the signing of a Phase I trade agreement with China.
  • Like many of our farmers, I was thrilled tobacco was included in the agreement since China is such a large buyer of U.S. and North Carolina tobacco.
  • I can tell you I wasted no time setting up a meeting with representatives of China Tobacco International – North America. We are fortunate the company’s office is in Cary, which allows us to be very responsive.
  • Members of our trade office in China also began reaching out to contacts to discuss trade opportunities going forward.
  • We have worked very hard to build strong relationships with China and I am optimistic about this first phase of the trade agreement.
  • Shortly after that signing came word that Congress had approved the U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement.
  • Both deals signal a desire for the United States’ biggest trading partners to work together. And I think that is very good news for agriculture.
  • As 2020 gets under way, I cannot help but feel these are signs of a better year for North Carolina farmers. I know that could be the farmer in me talking, because we always think the next year is going to better.
  • I had hoped 2019 would be a recovery year for farmers, but it felt more like we stood in place – no real significant gains because prices remained about the same and trade tariffs stayed in place.
  • There has been some movement on commodity prices, although no real sustained increases as of yet, but these trade agreements are clear signs to me that this could be a better year for agriculture.
  • I don’t have to tell you that farmers are long overdue some good news.
  • We talk a lot about how export markets are essential to agriculture in North Carolina and the United States. If we see opportunities, we are going to work hard to move North Carolina commodities and products there.
  • Although smaller in scope, we see potential trade opportunities in Europe because of Brexit, too. They will be renegotiating trade agreements independently, and we’d love for North Carolina farmers to be able to supply products to the United Kingdom.
  • For that reason, the U.K. has been the focus of some recent trade missions.
  • All in all, I am happy with these recent developments, and I feel more optimistic about 2020 than I did 2019.
  • If farmers want to hear more about these agreements and other economic indicators, I would encourage them to attend the annual Ag Development Forum on Feb. 6 at the Holshouser Building at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
  • C. State University economists Mike Walden and Blake Brown will be discussing the state of the economy in more depth.
  • It is free to attend, and lunch is provided. You can sign up at ncagr.gov.