Pecan farmers pushing for fewer trade barriers

From wymt.com.

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) — The pecan farming business is booming. The industry is rapidly adding jobs in Georgia and billions of dollars to the economy in the South, but now this sector faces a stumbling block.

Pecan farmers are looking to send more of their product overseas. The Indian market looks promising, but U.S. farmers face high export costs. Now a bipartisan group of lawmakers is fighting to lower those rates.

Georgia pecan farmer Jeb Barrow has seen the pecan farming business change. He’s been a grower since 1974, and just in the past several years, he’s seen it go from a domestic market to an international one.

Now about a third of U.S. crops are shipped to China.

“That’s kind of a good news-bad news situation,” said Barrow.

“Anybody that reads the paper or looks at the news understands that some geopolitical event could occur tomorrow that could have that effect, so that’s kind of a sword Damocles if you will hanging over the industry’s head,” explained Barrow.

Ultimately, Barrow says it wouldn’t be wise for farmers to just rely on Chinese buyers. So, their interest turns to India, which has an exploding population and a diet rich in nuts.

“We have high hopes that the Indian market can – if we can get the tariff issue addressed – the Indian market can be developed and in time others as well, so everybody’s optimistic,” said Barrow.

The sticking point? U.S. tree nut farmers sending pistachios or almonds face, on average, a 10 percent tariff to ship products to India. That tariff, essentially a tax, is 36 percent for pecans.

“I think this is a huge opportunity for Georgia and the southeast. A lot of people down there have committed to pecans as a product for the future, and I think they’re right,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).

Georgia Senator David Perdue and eight of his colleagues recently signed a letter to the U.S. trade representative, urging officials to negotiate lower tariffs.

“We know to grow our economy, we need open and free markets around the world. That’s what this is all about,” said Perdue.

Trade expert and Georgetown Professor Michael Czinkota says talks with India could mean a little give and take, but ultimately, both countries would benefit from streamlining trade barriers.

“From an altruistic perspective, we want their own people to do well. Because if they do well, then they buy more of our products and our relationships are likely to be better, so this whole idea of reducing the tariff on nuts is a good thing,” said Czinkota.

There are 15 pecan-producing states in the U.S., so if officials can help farmers crack into the Indian market, the impact could be tremendous.

Young Tigers Speak Out on Trade

This Fall, I am teaching a Georgetown University Seminar on International Trade – The Insiders, populated by our First Year Students. The insiders we talk with and about are politicians, Policy Analysts, lobbyists, Ambassadors, former cabinet members, and many other highly interesting people who have a lot to share with the students.

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During the lectures, we always try to expand our understanding, knowledge and dialogue about key trade issues. Recently, we discussed the “Blood Diamonds”, which are said to make life difficult as well as bring pleasure to those who own it. However, they should be rejected by recipients, since the money obtained from diamond trade may be used for revolutions, exploitations, and other types of harm to mankind.

Since money is fungible, it occurs to me that it is only a matter of time for us to find other goods to be “facilitators of evil”. Of course, the main question is: what products or services will be the Next Nefarious “Blood Products” around the world?

Here are the top 16 issues which, after substantial thought and discussion, emerged from the minds of the young tigers who are participating on the seminar:

  • Gasoline: Oil wars continue to increase;
  • Palm oil: Palm trees are being cut down at an alarming rate, causing negative effects on the environment;
  • Actions and transactions over the internet: Blockchain technology may mislead;
  • Computer parts: Scattered rebel groups will use technology in their favor;
  • Advanced technology use: Putting in danger human rights and leveraging child labor;
  • Coffee: Coffee makers exploit land, labor, and economic systems;
  • Smartphones: We are more and more dependent on technology;
  • Pharmacology: Aggregated demand will increase market share and profit margins unacceptably;
  • Dairy: Veganism has already grown by 500% in the U.S.;
  • FIFA World Cup: Migrant workers with long shifts may lead to dissatisfied processes;
  • Robots/Artificial Intelligence: They will eventually do everything better than humans;
  • Cryptocurrencies vs current currencies: Easier for criminals and terrorists to conduct exchanges;
  • Oil: Impending energy shortage by 2030 will lead to the usage of oil as a new form of currency;
  • Biofuels (fuel-producing algae): Fossil fuels are highly valuable but their reserves are in decline;
  • Antiquities and artifacts: Terrorist groups like the Islamic State begin to claim physical property and presence for themselves;
  • Endangered species: Harming the natural world and exploiting species.

I always say that is wise to listen to these young minds, they will be in command soon. And according to them, these are the issues of the day. Remember, forewarned is forearmed.

Martha Lawless speaks to students at the First Year Seminar

It is a pleasure to have Ms. Martha Lawless, chief of the Services Industry Research Division of the U.S. International Trade Commission, as guest at our Seminar!

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What a great opportunity for the students to learn about her work directing the USITC’s project on Global Digital Trade for the U.S. Trade Representative. She is a regular contributor to USITC’s research, focused on reporting the effects of new technology on the services and manufacturing sectors, the impact of policy barriers to trade in services, and the influence of corporate finance and other competitiveness factors on international trade.

Ms. Lawless was the project leader and primary author for the USITC’s two previous reports on digital trade, delivered to the Senate Finance Committee in 2013 and 2014.

Prior to joining the USITC, she was the director of the Corporate Risk Advisory Group at UBS Investment Bank in London, advising over 200 multinational companies on currency, interest-rate and commodity risk management, and Lecturer in Economics at Sussex Downs College.

Ms. Lawless received an A.B. in History and Economics magna cum laude from Harvard University, M.B.A. in International Finance from Yale University, and M.Sc. in Economics from Trinity College Dublin.

To know more about the First Year Seminar previous guests, please click here.

Language Matters in Ukraine’s Educational Reform | Commentary

john-mark-kuznietsov-134302 (1)Recently, the Washington Post wrote about the law restructuring Ukraine’s education system and establishing Ukrainian as the main language in schools. The new law concerns neighboring countries such as Russia and Hungary about the rights of ethnic minorities.

Why do I consider that important? In addition to creating political tensions in the region, this action may lead the country to a lack of unity and economic inefficiency. By reducing the role of other languages, even though they are clearly present in the country’s cultural mix, the new law segregates between those who speak Ukrainian and those who don’t. It can create an identity problem since language is one of the key-factors that compose one’s sense of belonging.

The new law can have economic consequences as well. It may limit work and educational potential by excluding a part of the population. According to the Post, about 30 percent of Ukrainians called Russian their mother tongue in the 2001 census. There are about 150,000 ethnic Hungarians in the country, accompanied by other minorities such as Romanians and Moldovans. Everyone who does not speak the official language may start facing inequality of payment and lack of work opportunity.

Instead of imposing limitations, it may be worth to embrace the different ethnicities and harness the diverse heritage from its people. Doing so may help inducing an inclusive educational environment and offer steps to guarantee an even more rich economy in the coming years. Just imagine all the business Ukraine can do in Hungary and Russia.

International marketing is a useful answer to a population which benefits from diverse capabilities.

(Click here to read the Washington Post article.)

Georgetown First Year Seminar Guest Speaker

We were visited by Mr. Barry Rhoads, Chairman of Cassidy and Associates. He presented his insights on the role of private sector influence on government, establishing and disrupting relationships and the achievement of thought for legislation.

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Mr. Rhoads arrived in Washington as an officer in the U.S. Army, became a tax prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice. He is now the head of one of the largest lobbying firms in Washington D.C where he represents interests both foreign and domestic, such as Airbus Industries.