As U.S. Trade Relations With Canada And Mexico Ease, Idaho Wheat Focuses On Far East

May 21, 2019

Japan is the largest international market for Idaho wheat.
Credit Bill Green / Flickr

As trade tensions escalate with China, the U.S. appears to be normalizing things with trading partners Canada and Mexico. The shifting relationship is good news for Idaho wheat producers.

The stars appear to be aligning for passage of the president’s revamped NAFTA deal, called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. Late last week, the U.S. lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from its North American neighbors. In response, those countries dropped retaliatory tariffs on a range of U.S. products, including agricultural goods.

“Fewer tariffs the better, because about half of Idaho wheat is exported,” says Blaine Jacobson, the executive director of the Idaho Wheat Commission.

He says the de-escalation with Canada and Mexico, ahead of a possible signing of the USMCA, is a good thing.

“Whether it is wheat being exported from Idaho or wheat being exported from Texas or Kansas or Oklahoma, exporting wheat is good because it helps the grower,” says Jacobson. “Even though it may not be their wheat, it moves the price of wheat up.”

Jacobson says he’s keeping a keen eye on a prospective bi-lateral trade deal between the U.S. and Japan. That country is the largest overseas market for Idaho wheat.

“I think progress is being made,” Jacobson says. “There’s some optimism out there, but, you know, until it’s actually signed we’ll be anxious.”

Japan is a primary consumer of soft white wheat from Idaho.

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