USDA announced Wednesday that Tom Vilsack will become the first sitting American Secretary of Agriculture to visit Vietnam when he travels to that country and China in mid-November. Secretary Vilsack explained the importance of these markets.
"China is our number one ag customer but Vietnam has gone from 50th to 15th in just a decade or so," Vilsack said. "So they have become a very important component of how we might be able to expand and double our exports over the next five years as the President has challenged us to do."
According to Vilsack, our trading partners in the Asia Pacific region recognize the U.S. as a reliable supplier of the highest-quality food and agricultural products. He says partnerships with growing markets like those in China and Vietnam are integral to the strength of the U.S. economy in the decades ahead.
In terms of exports, Vilsack says we are experiencing the best years in America's history. He notes U.S. ag exports this year and next are on track to reach new highs of $137 billion leading to a trade surplus of over $42 billion.
Just last week, President Obama signed free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Vilsack has said the deal with Korea gives the U.S. an opportunity to reopen conversations with the Chinese about the need for a more open market in terms of beef.
"The Chinese understand the quality of U.S beef but because of BSE in 2003 they have been reluctant to reopen their country to our beef supply," Vilsack said. "I am hopeful that the Korean agreement basically gives us a foot in the door to get those markets opened."
While in Vietnam Vilsack will meet with Vietnamese officials, talk with ag students and thank U.S. food and ag businesses for boosting the U.S. economy. During his visit to China Vilsack will attend meetings for the 22nd Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade as part of the Obama Administration’s delegation.