Ray Starling, Special Assistant to Trump, on Trade
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Ray Starling is Special Assistant to President Trump for Agriculture Trade and Food Assistance. He was the keynote speaker at the 2018 Citrus Showcase hosted by California Citrus Mutual.
He spoke about addressing imbalance in trade.
“The thing that the president wants to do is to address some of the imbalance that we have. We go out and negotiate these agreements,” Starling said. “We say that we’re all agreeing to the rules of the road and then all of a sudden in the middle of trading, when we will have almonds on a boat or we’ll have pork on a boat or have fruit on a boat and all of a sudden, we find out the rules have changed. That is not the kind of trade we’re talking about. We want to sort of fix those inequities, if you will.”
NAFTA also needs to be looked at closely.
“There are a number of chapters in the agreement and a lot of the things that we need to fix on agriculture, we have worked out,” Starling explained. “Some of those are things that are never going to make the news. They are agreements and understandings about maximum residue levels of pesticides. Their understanding about what is the tolerance of foreign matter in material that we may be shipping to Mexico or Canada.”
“But on the big issues for ag that we’ve still got to make progress on: One of those is with Canada, and it deals with the dairy issues,” Starling said. “They supposedly have a supply management system where they limit the amount that they produce in the country to get a higher price, but yet a lot of their products still ends up on the international market, so our point is if you’re going to have a supply management system, it’d be great if you actually manage your supply and then didn’t dump that product out on the world market to compete with American product out there.”
Enforcement is also a concern, noted Starling.
“I wouldn’t say that it has to be a sequential process like that. I mean, we’re always going to look for new agreements and new opportunities, but I think that often when we look at the way we’re resolving disagreements about trade, it’s a very long process,” he said.
“It takes years to go to the WTO and to get a successful outcome, and we’ve gotten many successful outcomes at the WTO, which some would argue is actually a sign that that system is not that successful because notwithstanding the fact that we keep winning there, we keep having to go there to get these solutions,” Starling explained.
Photo Credit: Port of Oakland