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President Presses Congress to Pass New Reciprocal Trade Legislation


President Donald Trump called for the continued rebuilding of American trade policy in his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, pointing to the ongoing trade negotiations with China as something that’s overdue.

Trump touted the elimination of the “death tax” but made no mention of biofuels at a time when farmers and ethanol producers continue to struggle economically.

The president congratulated Congress for passing “unprecedented legislation” to confront the opioid crisis, as well as a “sweeping” farm bill. In addition, Trump called on Congress to work with him on securing the southern border.

However, Trump focused heavily on trade to secure economic prosperity, calling it a priority to reverse “decades of calamitous” trade policies.

“We are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end,” he said. “Therefore, we recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods — and now our Treasury is receiving billions of dollars.

“But I don’t blame China for taking advantage of us — I blame our leaders and representatives for allowing this travesty to happen. I have great respect for President Xi (Jinping), and we are now working on a new trade deal with China. But it must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit and protect American jobs.”

The Trump administration faces a March 1 deadline to reach a trade agreement with China before automatic increases in tariffs on Chinese goods take effect.

In addition, the Trump administration completed a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 2018. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement now awaits Congressional approval.

Trump continued to pound on NAFTA in his speech.

“Another historic trade blunder was the catastrophe known as NAFTA,” he said. “I have met the men and women of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Hampshire and many other states whose dreams were shattered by NAFTA. For years, politicians promised them they would negotiate for a better deal. But no one ever tried — until now.

“Our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — or USMCA — will replace NAFTA and deliver for American workers, bringing back our manufacturing jobs, expanding American agriculture, protecting intellectual property, and ensuring that more cars are proudly stamped with the four beautiful words: ‘made in the USA.'”

NEW TRADE ACT

In addition, Trump called on Congress to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act. That is, if another country slaps tariffs on American products, “We can charge them the exact same tariff on the same product that they sell to us.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a statement he’s hopeful Congress will ratify trade agreements and reform the immigration system.

“Farmers and ranchers across the country need reforms to our immigration system, and we echo President Trump’s call for Congress to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to preserve and build on the export gains with our North American neighbors,” Duvall said.

“At the same time, we support bipartisan efforts to rebuild and modernize our nation’s infrastructure, including broadband technology in rural areas.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston said in a statement that Congress needs to finalize the USMCA.

“With 96% of our potential customers living outside the United States, there’s no policy issue more important to American cattle producers than access to foreign markets,” she said. “The sooner we can secure our access to Mexico and Canada, the sooner we can focus our time, energy, and resources on improving our access to lucrative markets in Asia and Europe.”

CALLS ON INFRASTRUCTURE

Trump called on both parties to come together to rebuild infrastructure.

“I know that Congress is eager to pass an infrastructure bill — and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting edge industries of the future,” he said.

Trump touted what he said is a revolution in American energy production, as the United States has become the No. 1 oil and natural gas producer in the world.

“And now, for the first time in 65 years, we are a net exporter of energy,” he said, but did not mention biofuels in the address.

Trump called on lawmakers to come together.

“But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,” he said.

“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.”

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

Source: Todd Neeley, DTN

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