In his recent visit to North Dakota, President Donald Trump said the United States is the “bank” that other countries are robbing, and he is right.
Since World War II, the United States intentionally entered into unfavorable trade agreements with its allies to rebuild Europe and to support foreign policy objectives. We now find ourselves the victim of agreements that border on the insane – from allowing Canada to automatically grade our wheat as feed to China slapping a 25 percent tariff on all U.S. vehicles sold in China. It is time for the world to start playing fair with us.
Thankfully, we are constructively moving towards resolution with Mexico, Canada, and the European Union. Yet, similar engagement with China has, of yet, been out of reach. This is due, in part, to the large scope of the problem. China’s unfair practices result in a $376 billion trade imbalance and an additional $50 billion lost each year to their piracy of technology and intellectual property.
While these Chinese practices seem to focus on intellectual property and manufacturing, we know their abusive trade practices are also affecting North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers. Whereas China embraces the procurement of technology to achieve world leadership, they unfairly stifle innovative American agricultural science, like genetically engineered crops. In addition, they regularly exceed their World Trade Organization obligation subsidy limits on corn, wheat, and rice to the tune of $100 billion a year.
Although the problem of non-reciprocal trade with China is significant, the tools to rectify it are limited. The president’s use of tariffs on Chinese products is not my preferred trade negotiation method. As we have seen, China swiftly responded to the United States’ action with retaliatory tariffs on our ag products including soybeans, corn, wheat, beef, and pork. The collateral damage China’s retaliation has had on all of our agriculture producers has been effective and is placing political pressure on the president to back down. This has all been by design and directly why they picked our ag products for retaliation. They are purposely agitating the president’s supporter base in hopes the internal strife will make us drop our actions to develop fair trade with them.
At the earliest stage of our trade negotiation efforts, I proposed the administration explore the powers found under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act authority to provide trade retaliation mitigation relief to our producers. The administration unveiled a plan to provide $12 billion in relief to those specifically targeted by China’s retaliatory actions. The first trade retaliation mitigation plan was released at the end of August providing $6.3 billion. While this is an effective effort by the administration on behalf of our producers, I advocate for additional mitigation in December if the negotiations continue. Also, bear in mind additional factors that may come into play such as new tariff levels, regional basis effects, or other market conditions that may have impacted some of the trade damages.
As part of my responsibility to represent North Dakota, I was the sole member of Congress to testify before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative during two public hearings. I shared how China’s retaliatory tariffs impact North Dakota’s agriculture community and manufacturers. As you can see, I have made it my mission to communicate clearly and directly with administration officials to ensure they fully understand the impact of China’s retaliatory tariffs on our state.
As I have done from the start, I will continue to urge the president and his administration to bring countries like China to the table to find a free, fair, and reciprocal solution. I believe the best way now to serve North Dakota is to offer solutions and I believe the best way to end a trade war is to win a trade war.
When this is successful, our nation and our North Dakota agriculture community and manufacturers will benefit for generations to come.
Kevin Cramer serves as North Dakota's lone member of the United States House of Representatives. He was first elected to the seat in November 2012 and won re-election in 2014 and 2016. Cramer previously served the state as state tourism director, Economic Development director, and in an elected position as Public Service Commissioner. He also is the former chairman of the North Dakota State Republican party. He lives in Bismarck with his wife and family.
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