The hot seat could be especially scalding Thursday when U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will be the only witness before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.
He’s one of the point men for President Donald Trump’s expanding trade war that has spurred retaliatory tariffs from China, Mexico, Canada, the European Union and others. Many of those tariffs are hitting farmers and ranchers especially hard, provoking ag groups and farm state lawmakers – Democratic and Republican – to become more vocal in their opposition.
Trump on Friday repeated a threat on CNBC to add even more tariffs on Chinese goods, reminding everyone that one of the trade battles he’s waging could get a lot worse before it’s resolved. The U.S. hit China with $34 billion in tariffs on July 6, but added $200 billion to that after China matched the first $34 billion.
“I’m ready to go to $500 (billion),” Trump said Friday.
The escalation, combined with White House trade advisor Peter Navarro’s disregard for the damage the tariffs are doing, elicited sharp rebukes from the ag sector. Navarro, also speaking on CNBC, said the trade losses due to China’s new tariffs amount to a “rounding error.”
“Prices for all of our export-sensitive farm goods have tanked since May, when this tariff game started,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, in a statement that hinted at political repercussions for Trump and Republicans. “Farm income was already off by half compared to four years ago, with debt levels rising-hardly a strong position for agriculture going into this trade war. This situation will only worsen as combines roll between now and the fall election season. The nation’s farmers and ranchers support the broader goal of strengthening our overall economy and trade balance, but not at the risk of long-term, irreparable harm to our ag exports and the jobs they create.”
For more on farmers’ frustration with Trump’s trade war, check out Agri-Pulse’s interview with Tom Nassif, President and CEO of Western Growers on Open Mic.
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