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Pushing Forward on Trade

June 22, 2020
Column

Exports alone make up more than 12 percent of the United States GDP. Expanding trade markets benefits our economy, relationships with other countries, and consumers. With something so critical as trade, we need to constantly be thinking about ways to improve in this vital area. For this reason, while the ongoing pandemic has disrupted day-to-day life around our nation, the Trump administration has continued its work negotiating and implementing multiple trade agreements with the support of many in Congress.

Over the past twelve months, President Trump signed into law legislation implementing the historic US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), completed a Phase One agreement with Japan, and China beginning to fulfill its commitments made in its Phase One agreement. While work continues implementing those agreements, the Administration is now negotiating a trade agreement United Kingdom, and talks with Kenya are eminent. While the pandemic necessitated some delays, we must push ahead for beneficial agreements that will boost our economy.

Every year, the United States Trade Representative appears before the Ways and Means Committee – which has jurisdiction over trade – to explain the Administration’s trade agenda for the coming year. In addition to regular meetings with Committee members, this hearing provides a public opportunity to conduct oversight of the trade agenda, ways we can better coordinate our efforts, and for us on the Ways and Committee, to report what is happening in our districts.

This week, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, the current United States Trade Representative, came before the Ways and Means Committee to discuss the Trump Administration’s 2020 trade agenda. I used my time in the hearing to thank the administration for the critical agriculture trade wins such as reducing Japanese tariffs on beef, and urged him to continue prioritizing our farmers and ranchers in future agreements. I was pleased he hear the administration will not compromise on getting fair access for our producers.

The United States-China Phase One trade agreement was a landmark deal for U.S. agriculture, committing China to buying significant amounts of our products and lowering longstanding trade barriers. While some commodities have fared well, others such as ethanol are not yet being purchased at agreed-upon levels. Since the pandemic, China has yet to make any real purchases of our ethanol or distiller’s grains, nor have they eliminated the tariffs imposed on them. We must hold China accountable, and make sure they are holding their end of the bargain across the board.

On a positive, after over three years of negotiations, relationship building, and passing necessary laws, the USMCA is finally ready to be implemented on July 1st. This is great news for the United States, Mexico, and Canada. I after attending USMCA negotiations in person and spending last year working to pass implementing legislation through the House, I am thankful we have locked in a new agreement Canada and Mexico, our closest neighbors and two best customers for Nebraska agriculture. Years of hard work will now bear fruit and our producers, manufacturers, and ultimately the consumers stand to benefit from the result of this trade deal.

As we begin to reopen our economy, expanding trade opportunities will be invaluable in bolstering our economy and I will continue to ensure Third District priorities, including agriculture, remain at the forefront of any future trade deal.