Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans to travel to Vietnam and China in mid-November to help strengthen bilateral trade relations and support the American brand throughout the Asia Pacific region. Vilsack is the first sitting American Secretary of Agriculture to visit Vietnam.
In comments at the National Journal's Healthy Food, Healthy Planet Policy Summit in Washington, D.C., Vilsack highlighted the strong performance of the U.S. farm economy, pointing to record exports, a record trade surplus, near-record farm income, and low farm debt as signs that America's farm sector is making major contributions to the nation's overall economy.
"Thanks to the productivity of America's farmers, ranchers and producers, our trading partners in the Asia Pacific region recognize the United States as a reliable supplier of the highest-quality food and agricultural products," said Vilsack. "Under the Obama administration, USDA has continued to expand markets for American goods abroad, worked aggressively to break down trade barriers to trade, and assisted U.S. businesses with the resources needed to reach consumers around the world. In terms of exports, we are experiencing the best years in America's history. 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 2011, China moved ahead of Mexico and Canada as the United States' No. 1 market for U.S. agricultural goods. Vietnam is one of the world's fastest growing economies and an important market for U.S. agricultural products, now valued at $1.3 billion. In the past decade, Vietnam jumped from the fiftieth (50) to fifteenth (15) position as a market for U.S. farm exports.
Agricultural exports help support more than 1 million American jobs. This year and next, U.S. agricultural exports are on track to reach new highs of $137 billion, leading to a trade surplus of over $42 billion, eight times greater than five years ago. Last week, President Obama signed new trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. When implemented, these three agreements will increase farm exports by an additional $2.3 billion—supporting nearly 20,000 American jobs—by eliminating tariffs, removing barriers to trade and leveling the playing field for U.S. producers.
In Vietnam, Vilsack will meet with Vietnamese officials, talk with agricultural students, and thank U.S. food and agricultural businesses for bolstering the U.S. economy. Vilsack will travel to China as part of the Obama Administration's delegation attending meetings for the 22nd Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT).