In the News
Source: Omaha World-Herald
Dec 06 2017
WASHINGTON — Farm state lawmakers continue to urge President Donald Trump not to completely abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, joined several GOP colleagues at the White House on Tuesday for a lunchtime NAFTA discussion with the president and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Both senators said they stressed the benefits the trade agreement provides to farmers and ranchers.
“I have concerns that it would be fairly easy for Mexico to find new markets if there would be a break in our trade with them,” Fischer told The World-Herald after the meeting.
In addition to farming interests, Fischer said she also emphasized the impact on manufacturing companies. She specifically cited Case New Holland’s Grand Island operations, saying much of the company’s agricultural equipment gets shipped to customers in Canada.
Fischer said the president indicated that he wants to get the same group of senators together again so they can continue to provide input about the administration’s trade policy.
NAFTA was one of candidate Trump’s favorite punching bags on the campaign trail last year and he continues to complain that it represents a raw deal for the United States.
“We have tremendous losses with Mexico and losses with Canada, and covered by NAFTA,” Trump said at the start of Tuesday’s meeting, when reporters were briefly allowed into the room. “Last year, we lost approximately $71 billion in trade deficit; we have a trade deficit with Mexico of $71 billion. With Canada, it was about $17 billion.”
That kind of talk has certainly resonated with those in the country’s rust belt, where many workers believe trade agreements have hurt the domestic manufacturing industry.
In a press release following the meeting, Ernst said she stressed to Trump and Lighthizer the duty-free access the agreement grants agricultural products.
“Trade plays a critical role in Iowa’s economy, and I reiterated to the administration the importance of ensuring Iowans remain competitive in the global market — provided our trading partners are operating on a level playing field,” Ernst said. “I will continue working to ensure that any changes made to NAFTA do not hurt our crop and livestock producers.”
Also among those urging the administration to modernize but not tear up NAFTA — Omaha-based Union Pacific.
In a letter to the administration earlier this year, Lance M. Fritz, U.P. chairman, president and CEO, wrote that the railroad has the largest trade-related volumes in North America and is the only one with access to all six rail gateways to Mexico.
U.P. shipment volumes moving north and south across the continent are “virtually balanced,” he wrote.
“The products Union Pacific ships to and from Mexico are part of larger supply chains, which support a range of U.S. jobs and workers across multiple sectors, from the Illinois auto worker who molds plastic into dashboards that are shipped to Mexico to be installed in a finished vehicle and sent back to the United States for sale in American showrooms, to the Iowa farmer whose soybeans travel along our rail lines to a Mexican factory, where they are crushed and sent back across the border in the form of vegetable oil to be sold in U.S. groceries.”