Iowa has the best workers who produce high quality products shipped around the world. In 2016, Iowans shipped over $12 billion worth of products to other countries.
As I travel to each county every month, I have the opportunity to tour the farms, manufacturers, processing facilities, and other businesses where these products are made. I am always impressed with the ingenuity and hard work I see from the folks at each stop.
Each week it seems there are new developments in the President’s effort to reduce our trade deficit and update trade deals. Talks of competing tariff proposals between China and the United States have put commodity markets on edge, and affected pensions and retirement funds invested in the stock market.
Just last week, the White House announced it would impose 25 percent tariffs on a number of Chinese products and the President slapped tariffs on our allies, Canada, Mexico, and the European Union.
I have warned agriculture always gets hit when trade wars or skirmishes take place. I continue to advocate for Iowans and policies which will give Iowans more access to markets, not less.
Since the steel and aluminum tariffs were announced, I have said tariffs are taxes on Iowans and bad for Iowa. Tariffs could blunt the positive outcomes of the new tax relief law. Higher prices on canned goods, farm machinery and products, appliances, vehicles, and other products are only part of the problem with tariffs.
Countries are threatening to impose tariffs on imported U.S. products, and the easiest target is our agricultural exports. Agriculture income is down four years in a row and retaliation from the European Union, China, Mexico, Canada or any other country against our commodities could be devastating to farmers, producers, rural communities, and Iowa’s economy.
A few weeks ago, I led a group of 43 colleagues to send a letter to Thailand telling them if they didn’t start allowing pork to be imported into their country, Congress may act to end their benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. The GSP program gives poor countries the ability to export certain goods to the United States tariff free.
While GSP products account for only three percent of all United States imports, the program is important for poor countries who must also reciprocate and allow United States products in to their country. Thailand has continued to restrict imports of United States pork in violation of the GSP program rules and the United States Trade Representative has opened an investigation into Thailand’s conduct.
Trade is good, but it also has to be fair which is why I led my colleagues on this issue.
Many Iowans are watching the developments on NAFTA negotiations. The two countries which import the most goods from Iowa are Canada and Mexico. These countries are responsible for about $5.6 billion in exports in 2016. Some parts of NAFTA can be modernized and updated, like provisions surrounding agriculture and intellectual property, but scrapping the entire deal would be devastating to Iowa’s economy.
I recently held a classified meeting with my colleagues and Ambassador Gregg Doud, the Chief Agriculture Negotiator at the United States Trade Representative to learn about the ongoing NAFTA negotiations and to share the sentiments I have heard from Iowans. While I can’t share what was discussed, I am advocating for Iowa.
As the administration continues to negotiate with countries around the world, I will continue making sure they hear the voices of Iowans and stand up for my bosses in the Third District.