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How Foreign Ag Relations Are Benefitting U.S. Blueberries

Ted McKinney

USDA’s Foreign Ag Service has been a benefit for the U.S. blueberry industry as they address trade barriers. One of those was about the removal of tariffs on fresh and dried blueberries with the U.S.-Japan agreement. However, there is still a tariff on frozen blueberries.

“I still have not figured out how the tariff line for frozen blueberries didn’t get tossed in there—I think there was every intent to,” said Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney. “I found it was on our list when we talked with USTR.”

McKinney was one of the keynote speakers during last week’s U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council’s virtual meeting. He gave an update on the trade situation with Japan.

“Had we not had the COVID bout, I think we would have been able to get pretty close, if not into, a phase two [agreement] with Japan,” he said. “For sure we’ve had the UK and Kenya in the wings, but we did want to get back there and to some of these little fixes and add new products, but we didn’t.”

McKinney said he’s hasn’t been told by the USTR when the timing of those adjustments might happen, but he thinks it will happen post-election.

“We’ll just have to see what happens with the election,” he said. “I know we at USDA and USTR wants to get back there. I do not know what Mr. Biden and the Democratic platform calls for, so we want to get there.”

The Philippines was supposed to be one of destinations for USDA’s trade missions this year. However, the mission was taken off the books because of the pandemic. McKinney said he’s continuing to spend a lot of time in the Asia-Pacific region and it’s paying off.

“One of the reasons we got blueberries there is I made two trips there,” said McKinney. “We hadn’t really visited there. If you show up once, they know you’re serious. If you show up twice and three and four times, they really know we have a friend and we better be behaving because they want things from us.”