FRANKFURT – After a two-year hiatus from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) trade missions, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Ryan Quarles participated in two international business development opportunities with the goal of show that Kentucky and the United States are willing to speed up trade negotiations to benefit farmers.
Quarles’ first trade mission took him to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia to focus on food and equine exports. The second took him to the UK to discuss with senior MPs a new bilateral deal with the US.
“Developing markets for Kentucky farm families is a core responsibility of me as Kentucky’s commissioner of agriculture,” Quarles said. “Despite my disagreement with President Biden on several policy issues, I appreciate his U.S. Department of Agriculture calling on state agricultural leaders to help open new markets for American farmers. I was grateful to work with the Trump administration on the many trade agreements signed by President Trump. With people traveling again, I think it’s important to get back to normal, to continue international business relationships, and to put the interests of Kentucky farmers first. Every time we can sell more Kentucky agricultural products, that’s a win for our state.
Quarles, accompanied by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, traveled to Dubai Feb. 15-24 as part of the USDA’s first in-person trade mission in more than two years. During the trip, Quarles connected with Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, Inc. (KTOB) for meetings in GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries to benefit the world-class equine industry. from Kentucky. Kentucky Thoroughbreds dominate the Arabian Peninsula, including sweeping victory, place and spectacle in the recent Saudi Arabian Cup, the world’s biggest horse race. Quarles also reviewed biosecurity and quarantine procedures to help mitigate the spread of equine disease.
“The World Trade Center Kentucky is delighted that Commissioner Quarles has represented the State of Bluegrass in the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom on trade missions,” said Omar Ayyash, President of the World Trade Center Kentucky. “Having worked in the UAE for several years, I know the market well and businesses and farmers in Kentucky will benefit from the participation of the USDA Travel Commissioner. With the United Kingdom being one of Kentucky’s largest trading partners, it is important that our state reaffirms our relationship with them in the post-Brexit era and as we emerge from the pandemic. We stand ready to work with the Department of Agriculture to deepen our state’s relationship with both countries.
According to the USDA, the UAE is home to a diversified economy, state-of-the-art airports and seaports, a business-friendly regulatory environment, and extensive free trade zones. The UAE is one of the largest markets for US agriculture and food among GCC countries and home to the largest food expo in the world. The UAE is also considered the entry point to the Indian and African markets.
The British Ambassador to the US, Dame Karen Pierce DCMG, has also invited Commissioner Quarles to participate in a visit by a select group of US agriculture officials from March 5-11. The US-UK trade relationship is extremely important, and the UK consistently ranks among the top three export destinations for Kentucky agricultural products. The United States is the United Kingdom’s largest trading partner and is the destination for 20% of that country’s exports. Yet, due to Brexit, the UK and the US do not have an updated bilateral trade agreement. Commissioner Quarles met with three senior ministers, including commerce, international trade and agriculture, to encourage progress on the trade deal and eliminate tariffs on Kentucky bourbon.
“The United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates are significant participants and investers in the Central Kentucky Thoroughbred industry,” said Shannon Arvin, President and CEO of Keeneland. “Keeneland applauds Commissioner Quarles and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s commitment to maintaining Kentucky’s trade ties with these key international markets.
No state taxpayer money was used to pay for Quarles’ travel expenses. USDA’s mission was covered by Market Access Program funds appropriated to the federal agency by Congress, as well as funds from the Southern United States Trade Association and US Livestock Genetics Export, Inc. The trip to the UK was sponsored by the British government. .
Total exports of agricultural and related products from Kentucky amounted to more than $1.1 billion in 2021, with more than $11 million exported to the United Arab Emirates and $98 million to the United Kingdom until November 2021.