Trade crucial to growing economy

The next round of NAFTA negotiations is underway in Mexico City, and I am part of the bipartisan congressional delegation traveling to these talks to stress the importance of this agreement to America’s economic future. 

Last month, I had the opportunity to bring Nebraska’s voice to the NAFTA negotiations in Montreal.  Having a congressional delegation on the ground talking with leaders from all three countries reinforced our commitment to upholding the agreement.  The successes achieved under NAFTA make it clear it is in our country’s best interest to maintain these trade ties with our neighbors. 

Following our meetings in Montreal, I remain encouraged about the progress being made on NAFTA.  We cannot take anything for granted until we reach the finish line, but I am optimistic we will have more positive conversations in Mexico City to continue moving the process forward.  

I also appreciated President Trump’s invitation this week to join him and a small group of House colleagues at the White House for a discussion on the need for strong trade policies, especially for U.S. agriculture.  As the representative of the top-producing ag district in the country, I see it as a great responsibility to share the story of NAFTA’s successes for Nebraska ag.   

Nebraska producers depend on these billion-dollar export markets, as 45 percent of our state’s ag exports go to Canada and Mexico.  Our group expressed concerns about how other large ag economies such as Brazil and Argentina are already positioning themselves to fill the gap created by uncertainty over NAFTA’s future.  These negotiations must be done right, but producers need the certainty of a completed agreement as soon as possible. 

In addition to stressing the necessity of a strong NAFTA for agriculture, I also highlighted the need to reduce other trade barriers such as Japan’s tariff on U.S. beef.  Producers have already been placed at a competitive disadvantage in the Japanese market due to our country’s inaction on trade.  For example, Australia’s trade agreement with Japan brought the tariff on its frozen beef down to 27 percent, which means U.S. beef producers are now facing nearly double the tariff as their Australian counterparts.  To level the playing field, I introduced a resolution in the House to urge the establishment of a trade agreement with Japan. 

As our economy grows through tax reform, we should focus on opening more markets around the world.  I am very concerned about the Trump administration’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.  Though it is important to be strong negotiators, we must not take actions which will lead to retaliation against U.S. exporters, especially agriculture. 

On the other hand, I am pleased the Trump administration has expressed some interest in revisiting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has the potential to open many leading global markets to Nebraska ag.  The nations involved in TPP represent a market of 800 million people and 40 percent of the global economy.  By participating in these agreements, we can ensure we are writing the rules rather than allowing other world powers to take our place. 

As these issues progress, I will keep sharing the importance of robust trade relationships with the Trump administration, fellow Members of Congress, and our trade partners to strengthen market access for producers.

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