TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator, Office of the US Trade Representative, indicated that an agreement with Mexico was near, but many challenges remained with Canada and several other trading partners. Doud’s comments came at the 35th annual International Sweetener Symposium sponsored by the American Sugar Alliance held in Traverse City on Aug. 7.

“Mexico is going as well as we can possibly expect right now,” Doud said, adding that the focus now was on “getting the details right.” He indicated an agreement with Mexico could be completed “in short order.”

But the news wasn’t as promising concerning Canada, the third member of the North American Trade Agreement.

“Canada, oh Canada, is what you want to say,” Doud said, noting that it has been “really difficult” dealing with Canada and that the market access discussion between the United States and Canada hasn’t occurred yet.

He said the United States was trying to send a signal with NAFTA, that “we can start a fire and can put it out in relatively short order.”

He noted the need to get NAFTA “squared away” because “uncertainty in commodity markets is always bearish.”

“My preference is that there not be this much uncertainty in agriculture,” he said.

Japan was at the “top of the list” after NAFTA, he said, adding that there would be an “important discussion” with Japan this week.

On other trade fronts, Doud cited several reasons why it was essential to deal with China, which he noted had become a member of the World Trade Organization in 2001. He cited theft of intellectual property, of rice and corn technology and massive subsidies that were in violation of WTO rules and that were costing farmers around the world.

Based on an audience question, Doud said the United States can’t tell China what to do, but “we have to help them understand what is in their best interest.”

Doud also cited concerns with India, which he indicated was not reflecting its massive subsidy programs accurately to the public, with Indonesia, with which there has been a “good conversation,” and the European Union, which would be an “extremely difficult discussion” that’s been needed “for a long, long time” and that would include agriculture. He also said bilateral talks were needed with the United Kingdom, Vietnam, the Philippines and “some African nations.”