For months policy analysts, trade negotiators and even elected officials have said that a trade deal with China is just weeks away from completion. While John Gilliland of Gilliland and McKinney International Counselors, a D.C.-based law and policy firm specializing in international trade, agriculture, and international policy issues, agrees a completed agreement is likely to happen in May or June, he cautioned farmers that a finished deal is the beginning of the process, not the end.
“Well right now, we still don't know when exactly negotiations will end. The expectation is, they'll end sometime by the end of May, early June. Now, we've been told since late last year that the talks would end at different times, so the goal was to end them by the end of February, then the goal was by the end of March,” he told AgriTalk host Chip Flory. “But keep in mind that there is a lot on the table. And a lot of these issues are very complicated, not so much in agriculture, but in some of those other areas I mentioned, intellectual property, there are foreign investment issues, and those are addressing some Chinese policies that are very deep and are very important to the Chinese government's expectations for their future. So unwinding a lot of that just takes time.”
While he expects farmers to get access to Chinese markets back at least to the level they were before the trade spat, Gilliland added there’s hope for more access.
“We've had problems with getting access to China's market in a lot of different commodities and so the hope is that we will begin to actually dismantle some of those hurdles from this agreement itself,” he said.
While completing the agreement is critical, he said it’s the beginning of the process, not the end.
“A deal here will be very important to kick off what our new bilateral relations might look like China but expect this to be again the beginning of a longer process rather than the end of it,” Gilliland said adding that problems with import procedures have limited access, something U.S. negotiators are working to fix. “When I say that the beginning of the process, you touched on enforcement, and that's the key. We’re agriculture, I would expect pretty good security that China wants to buy our commodities. The uncertainty comes in the enforcement over those other types of issues outside of agriculture and whether problems and keeping China to a commitment. Having new spats that come out of that with that might impact us as well, and that's where that uncertainty comes in.”