Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s confirmation as U.S. secretary of agriculture in April put one of the first unabashed globalists into President Donald Trump’s cabinet.
The question was how much he would be able to deviate from his boss’s more protectionist pattern.
Given the recently announced reorganization of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it looks as if he’s been given plenty of room — all the while reconciling his plans with Mr. Trump’s strategy to reinvigorate rural areas.
I want someone who wakes up every morning and asks the question, ‘Where can I sell more U.S. products today?’
And Mr. Perdue has reportedly had an outsized impact already on Mr. Trump’s trade approach. According to the Wall Street Journal, the former Georgia governor and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross persuaded the president to stay his decision to scrap NAFTA by showing him a map of places in the country that would be hard-hit in the event of its demise.
Just two weeks later, Mr. Perdue announced that the new USDA would feature a new undersecretary for international trade, a position that must be filled by a presidential appointee. The job description reads as if the department is hiring a chief export salesperson:
“We want to find more customers for American products and help feed a hungry world. I want someone who wakes up every morning and asks the question, ‘Where can I sell more U.S. products today, and what are the barriers to trade that we can take down today?’” Mr. Perdue said in a video message to USDA workers.
He said the new role was made possible by streamlining the agency’s structures, leaving it still with seven undersecretaries and putting the current trade arm of the department, the Foreign Agriculture Service, under the new leader’s purview. Many domestic functions were reconstituted and rebranded, while rural agricultural support agencies were given a direct line to the secretary.
Announcing the reorganization in Cincinnati, Mr. Perdue cast Mr. Trump as caring deeply about ag trade, despite the fact that the president pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership during his first week in office. Among the achievements cited by proponents of the 12-nation deal with Pacific Rim countries were concessions on beef in the notoriously guarded Japanese market and better access on dairy products in other highly protected countries. Canada and Mexico were also included in the deal.
“President Trump cares very much about agriculture and rural America and wants to do everything he can to make it succeed here at home and in the market places around the world,” Mr. Perdue said at the announcement, according to Politico.
In the video to employees, Mr. Perdue said the shifts at the department were being made without job cuts. He added that USDA’s new trade chief would work closely with the Mr. Ross and newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
“With global markets ever expanding, we need to make sure that our American farmers, ranchers, foresters and producers are well positioned to continue to lead the world,” Mr. Perdue said.
This week, the new ag secretary also heralded a trade deal with China that would allow U.S. beef back into that market for the first time since 2004.