Washington Insider-- Tuesday

Korea, China, and Japan Plot Stronger Agricultural Ties

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

Surface Transportation Funding Outlook

Senate and House leadership had said they planned to reconcile the Senate’s six-year highway bill (HR 22) with a multiyear surface transportation bill from the House before a three-month patch expires Oct. 29. However, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has not yet unveiled a bill or scheduled a markup for this month.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said on Sept. 11 that his committee won’t mark up a multi-year highway and transit bill the week of Sept. 18 and cited the need for a funding plan from the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee to get a bill to move.

The panel now plans to vote on a multiyear reauthorization of highway and transit programs by early October, and a short-term extension seems imminent given the little time available for the House and Senate to work on a deal. The House is scheduled to be on recess the week of Sept. 21.

Both chambers are working on legislation to follow the expiration of current authorization. The Senate passed a six-year bill before it left for August recess.

Shuster said in July that he hoped the House could pass its own long-term bill and head to conference early in October.

Meanwhile, new information from the Transportation Department showing the Highway Trust Fund could remain solvent until June 2016. That might remove a sense of urgency for passing long-term surface transportation reauthorization before the end of the year, although Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Congress should act before the 2016 presidential election season gets into full swing.

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Korea, China, and Japan Plot Stronger Agricultural Ties

Korea, China, and Japan agreed to strengthen cooperation in agriculture with a focus on animal diseases, sustainability and working toward the trilateral China-Korea-Japan free trade agreement, according to results of the second trilateral Agricultural Ministers’ meeting in Tokyo.

“Animal and plant diseases, natural disasters and climate change, biomass energy development, agricultural scientific and technological cooperation, the 6th industrialization of agriculture (and) the agricultural negotiations on the China-Japan-Korea free trade agreement.” were among the issues discussed, said China, Japan, and Korea in a joint communique.

The Ministers voiced support for joint efforts to address animal disease, including avian influenza (bird flu) and foot-and-mouth disease. The countries aim to accelerate research into vaccines through joint research and development efforts.

Lowering trade barriers was a key part of the talks. Import bans on Japanese food were discussed in a bilateral meeting between Japan and Korea and reducing import barriers for Korean food products was discussed in a meeting between China and Korea.

Increasing domestic food production was also discussed – important as all three countries are net importers of food. “We shared the view that sustainably increasing domestic production capacity is very important for our food security.” the ministers said.

The meetings also presented an opportunity for the countries to restart stalled talks on a trilateral free trade agreement, which were derailed in 2012 over historical and territorial disputes.

The joint communique by the three ministers is effective for five years and they will meet again for a third time in China at a date yet to be determined.

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(GH/CZ)