U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) are extremely disappointed in the decision announced today to impose sweeping tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. We have repeatedly warned that the risks of retaliation and the precedent set by such a policy have serious potential consequences for agriculture. It is dismaying that the voices of farmers and many other industries were ignored in favor of an industry that is already among the most protected in the country.
If the United States is taken to dispute settlement at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for imposing these tariffs, we call on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to avoid invoking the essential security exception under GATT Article XXI. The recent Department of Defense memorandum made it clear that imported steel and aluminum did not threaten its ability to acquire enough from domestic suppliers to meet its needs. The USTR should not take the extraordinary step of invoking Article XXI to defend what we believe is protectionism.
At NAWG’s board of directors meeting this week, a new resolution was passed urging the Administration to avoid imposing national security-based trade barriers on commonly traded products. NAWG’s newly instated President Jimmy Musick, a wheat farmer from Sentinel, Okla., said “at such an economically hard time for wheat growers, we do not want to see trade barriers brought against us from some of our top customers who are impacted by this decision.”
Wheat farmers battling a market in which China holds almost 50 percent of world ending wheat stocks can sympathize with steel and aluminum workers on the economic effects of Chinese policies leading to global oversupply. However, we hope that our legitimate concerns with this action are heard and taken into consideration in this process.