Tag Archives: Trade

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer touched on several topics in an interview with the Rural Radio Network at the KRVN Radio studios on Thursday September 20th.   KRVN News Director Dave Schroeder hosted the interview.  International trade is an issue she closely monitors…

Senator Fischer also updated listeners on the current status of WOTUS or Waters of the US rule.

Sen. Fischer voted in favor of recent legislation in the Senate that helps states and communities in addressing the growing Opiod epidemic…

Bills to lower prescription drug prices came through the Senate in September.    Sen. Fischer cosponsored three bills….

There’s work to be done this Fall in the nation’s Captiol.  Sen. Fischer outlines issues she expects to come up….

China said Tuesday that it will hit back against President Donald Trump with retaliatory duties of five or 10 percent against another $60 billion worth of American products.

The response comes one day after Trump issued the largest number of tariffs yet in an escalating trade dispute. Politico says China is scheduled to implement their plan on Monday to coincide with the new U.S. duties. A total of $113 billion in U.S. exports are now subject to tariffs while duties will be in place on $253 billion in Chinese products.

Trump is prepared to go even higher, saying Tuesday that he’s ready to impose duties on another $267 billion in Chinese imports. The new tariff list includes meat products, including lamb and salted beef; frozen and canned produce like peas and spinach; refined ingredients like soybean, corn, and coconut oil, to processed oats; along with coffee, teas, and liquors.

Ag groups weren’t happy with Trump’s decision to take things further. “As we head into the 2018 harvest season for corn and soybeans out here in Iowa, this escalation of the trade conflict couldn’t have come at a worse time,” says Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig.

Bloomberg says President Trump wants to proceed with another $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports as soon as the public comment period wraps up next week.

Six people familiar with the matter spoke anonymously with Bloomberg for the article. Companies and people have until September 6th to submit comments on duties that will cover everything from semiconductors to selfie sticks. Some sources say the president will implement the tariffs and others say there hasn’t been a final decision yet.

It’s possible that the tariffs will either come in installments or several weeks after an official announcement. Bloomberg says the latest tariff threat is causing heated debate within the administration. U.S. Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer and trade adviser Peter Navarro are pushing for quick action.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and economic adviser Larry Kudlow are asking for more time. If implemented, the $200 billion in additional tariffs would be the biggest number imposed to date and mark a major escalation in the trade war between the worlds’ two biggest economies.

Ports and ground terminals in nearly every state handle goods that are now or will likely soon be covered by import tariffs. Port executives worry that this could mean a slowdown in shipping that would have ripple effects on truckers and others whose jobs depend on trade.

The Associated Press analyzed government data and found that from the West Coast to the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, at least 10 percent of imports at many ports could face new tariffs if President Donald Trump’s proposals take full effect.

Since March, the U.S. has applied new tariffs of up to 25 percent on nearly $85 billion worth of steel and aluminum and various Chinese products, mostly goods used in manufacturing.

Trump said in a recent tweet, “Tariffs are working big time.” He has argued that the tariffs will help protect American workers and force U.S. trading partners to change rules that the president insists are unfair to the United States.

In New Orleans, port officials say a tariff-related drop in shipments is real, not merely a forecast. Steel imports there have declined more than 25 percent from a year ago, according to the port’s chief commercial officer, Robert Landry.

The port is scouting for other commodities it can import. But expectations appear to be low.

“In our business, steel is the ideal commodity,” Landry said. “It’s big, it’s heavy, we charge by the ton so it pays well. You never find anything that pays as well as steel does.”

The port of Milwaukee imports steel from Europe and ships out agricultural products from the Midwest. Steel imports haven’t dropped yet because they are under long-term contracts, said the port director, Adam Schlicht. But there has been “an almost immediate halt” in outbound shipments of corn because of retaliatory duties imposed by the European Union on American products.

Much of the corn, he said, “is just staying in silos. They are filled to the brim.”

Most other ports have been humming along and even enjoyed an unexpected bump in imports during June and July as U.S. businesses moved up orders to ship before the new tariffs took effect. That started with manufacturing goods and is now spreading to retail items for back-to-school and Christmas.

“Some of my retail customers are forward-shipping the best they can to offset proposed tariffs,” says Peter Schneider, executive vice president of T.G.S. Transportation, a trucking company in Fresno, California.

Port officials were encouraged by this week’s announcement that the United States and Mexico had reached a preliminary agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, hoping it might lead to reduced trade barriers. Canada’s participation in any new deal to replace NAFTA, though, remains a major question mark.

The port officials continue to worry, though, that Trump will make good on a plan to expand tariffs to an additional $200 billion in Chinese imports — a list that includes fish and other foods, furniture, carpets, tires, rain jackets and hundreds of additional items. Tariffs would make those items costlier in the United States. And if Americans buy fewer of those goods, it would likely lead to fewer container ships steaming into U.S. ports.

The impact will be felt keenly at West Coast ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, relying on information from his port officials, said his port — the biggest in the United States — could suffer a 20 percent drop in volume if the additional $200 billion in tariffs are imposed against Chinese goods.

Jock O’Connell, an economist in California who studies trade, said he doubts a downturn would be so severe — that would match the slump that accompanied the global recession of 2008 — “but we will see a definite impact.”

Here are some of the key findings from the AP analysis:

— U.S. tariffs will cover goods that are imported at more than 250 seaports, airports and ground terminals in 48 states.

— At 18 of 43 customs districts — including those representing ports around Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and Houston — at least 10 percent of their total import value could be covered by new tariffs if all Trump’s proposals take effect.

— Retaliatory duties by China and other countries cover $27 billion in U.S. exports.

Eugene Seroka, executive director of the Los Angeles port, worries that “if tariffs make it too expensive to import, there will be an impact on jobs.”

Seroka and others don’t expect layoffs on the docks. Union longshoremen — whose average pay last year on the West Coast was $163,000, according to the Pacific Maritime Association, which negotiates for the ports — often have contract provisions ensuring that they are paid even if there’s no work. And there are fewer of them than there were a few decades ago because the advent of shipping containers has reduced the need for people on the docks.

Dwayne Boudreaux, an International Longshoremen’s Association official in Louisiana, said, though, that his stevedores are handling about 10 percent less steel from Japan because of the new tariffs.

“We don’t think it’s going to (get) worse,” he said. But, he added, “who knows — that could change from the next press conference.”

The impact might be greater on truck drivers and warehouse workers. Fewer will be needed, according to O’Connell.

Many drivers who deliver shipping containers from the dock to warehouses are independents contracted by trucking companies, and they don’t get paid if there is nothing to haul. Some might leave the profession, said Weston LaBar, CEO of the Harbor Trucking Association in Long Beach, California.

“It’s hard to retain drivers,” he said. “If we don’t have work for those drivers, we’re worried they will leave for some other segment of the trucking business or go into another business, like construction.”

Less shipping means less revenue for the ports — something that could limit their ability to pay for expansion and improvement projects, according to Kurt Nagle, president of the American Association of Port Authorities. He said U.S. ports are in the midst of a planned $155 billion in infrastructure spending from 2016 through 2020.

The current trade war was foreshadowed in January by steep U.S. tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines. It exploded with the U.S. tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Then came two rounds of duties targeting about $50 billion in imports from China — punishment against that country for pressuring U.S. companies to transfer technology and intellectual property to Chinese companies.

Along the way, China, the European Union, Turkey, Canada and Mexico imposed retaliatory duties on U.S. goods including farm products and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

This week, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office finished six days of hearings on a plan to hit another $200 billion in Chinese imports with 10 percent duties. Trump has said that if China continues to retaliate he could eventually add tariffs on $450 billion in Chinese goods, nearly 90 percent of that country’s 2017 exports to the U.S.

Trade wars are usually temporary. President George W. Bush abandoned his steel tariffs after less than two years.

Milwaukee’s port director worries, however, that damage from the current trade dispute could linger. Canada is increasing corn exports to Europe, and Brazil is trying to pick up the slack in soybean exports to China.

“Others are already picking up that business,” Schlicht said.

MILWAUKEE  — Wisconsin dairy farmers and cheesemakers remain hopeful that a new trade deal between the U.S. and Mexico will augment business in a key state export market.

The preliminary U.S.-Mexico deal announced Monday by President Donald Trump calls for zero tariffs on dairy and agricultural products, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Mexico also has agreed to not restrict market access for commonly named U.S. cheeses.

“We are very happy that this deal has been reached,” said Jeff Schwager, president of Sartori Cheese in Plymouth.

No other country imports more dairy products than Mexico, said Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative president Brody Stapel. He added that the potential loss of that market has caused anxiety for farmers over the past several months.

“Let’s face it. These are tough times for dairy farmers — tough enough even without all the uncertainty created by trade wars,” said Stapel. “So we should celebrate this for the major step forward that it is.”

Mexico and Canada are the state’s biggest trading partners.

Trump said the tentative trade agreement would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement , which he said had “bad connotations” for the U.S. Full details of the agreement haven’t yet been released.

“It’s a big day for trade,” the president said. “It’s a big day for our country.”

Trump said he intends to terminate NAFTA, and that the U.S. would immediately begin negotiations with Canada, the third party in the trilateral trade pact.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) today urged President Trump to reengage Canada in trade negotiations and expressed the importance of Canada being part of any final North American trade deal.

 

“Trade with Canada and Mexico has clearly benefited Kansans, and a modernized NAFTA, or re-named trilateral agreement, can present increased economic opportunity and growth to Kansas and the country,” wrote Sen. Moran. “As I continue to study the emerging details of the preliminary agreement with Mexico, it appears there are improvements included that would update the agreement to reflect the 21st century economy. Further negotiations with Canada are necessary to address difficult issues, such as Canada’s protectionist dairy policies that have harmed Kansas farmers. However, any new agreement that excludes Canada would unfortunately be a significant step in the wrong direction compared to the trilateral agreement in place today.”

Below is the full letter from Senator Moran to President Trump:

Dear Mr. President:

I applaud you for reaching a preliminary agreement between the United States and Mexico on a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Any agreement that has been in place for decades should be reviewed and modernized and I support your efforts to get a better deal for the American people. While the preliminary agreement with Mexico represents a significant step forward in your efforts to modernize NAFTA, it is critical to Kansans that Canada be included in any final agreement presented to Congress for approval.

Kansas is an export dependent state – our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers rely on the ability to sell to consumers around the world. North American markets are especially important to my state. In 2017, Canada was the top market for Kansas, accounting for over 22 percent of all exports. Canada and Mexico consistently rank as the number one and two export markets for Kansas and together account for over one-third of overall exports. NAFTA has also resulted in integrated North American supply chains that rely on a free flow of goods and products across the continent. Many jobs in Kansas, including those in the agriculture, aerospace, automobile and other manufacturing industries, would be threatened should these supply chains be disrupted or export markets be diminished.

Trade with Canada and Mexico has clearly benefited Kansans, and a modernized NAFTA, or re-named trilateral agreement, can present increased economic opportunity and growth to Kansas and the country. As I continue to study the emerging details of the preliminary agreement with Mexico, it appears there are improvements included that would update the agreement to reflect the 21st century economy. Further negotiations with Canada are necessary to address difficult issues, such as Canada’s protectionist dairy policies that have harmed Kansas farmers. However, any new agreement that excludes Canada would unfortunately be a significant step in the wrong direction compared to the trilateral agreement in place today.

I understand that you and your administration will engage with Canada in trade discussions following the preliminary agreement reached with Mexico. I fully support continued negotiations and urge you to make certain a final agreement includes Canada to avoid major market disruptions that would harm Kansans. Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Senator Jerry Moran

LINCOLN, NEB. – “Today’s announcement that the U.S. and Mexico have reached an agreement on provisions of a trade deal is good news for Nebraska farmers and ranchers who have been anxiously awaiting positive news on the trade front. While this is clearly progress, it’s critical that Canada come back to the negotiating table. It’s time for our countries to resolve these issues and lock in an updated trade agreement to eliminate uncertainties in these markets and expand market access for our farm and ranch families.”

The Nebraska Farm Bureau is grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service and advocacy efforts. More than 61,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit www.nefb.org.

Trade missions are one of the top ways we can grow Nebraska.  With 95 percent of the world’s population living beyond our borders, there are billions of potential customers around the world.  When it comes to trade, Nebraska’s ag products are some of our top exports.  Every year, we export about $2 billion worth of soybean products, $1.2 billion of beef, and almost $1.2 billion of corn.  To build international markets for our quality products, the Director of the Department of Agriculture and I have recently completed trade missions to Mexico and Vietnam that have great potential and opportunities for Nebraska farmers and ranchers.

Last week, I returned from a trade mission to Mexico where we focused on promoting agriculture, identifying new business opportunities, and strengthening relationships with our existing customers.  Over the last few years, I have led trade missions to Japan twice, China twice, the European Union, and Canada, but this was my first one to Mexico.  Mexico is Nebraska’s second-largest agricultural export market, so it presents tremendous opportunities for producers and businesses in Nebraska.  The trip really gave us a big step up in expanding Nebraska’s brand in this important market as well as a great opportunity to say thank you to our neighbor and one of our best customers.

While in Mexico, the delegation met with leaders in manufacturing and agriculture, and visited a facility outside of Mexico City owned by Preferred Popcorn, a Nebraska-based company.  Nebraska is the number one state for popcorn production.  We attended meetings with representatives from the State of Mexico and other government officials to talk to them about how we can strengthen trade ties.  We concluded the mission with events for leaders in the Mexico meat industry to promote our quality ag products.  Mexico imports almost $300 million of corn annually from Nebraska as well as $187 million of soybean products and $132 million of beef.  People we talked to during the mission expressed interest in buying more of our quality grains so that Mexico can develop their livestock industry.

Our delegation to Mexico consisted of 25 people representing the state including Director of Economic Development Dave Rippe, key commodity groups, successful businesses, and the University of Nebraska in Omaha.  When these groups come together as a united team it shows the world that Nebraska values agriculture, recognizes the importance of trade, and is a great place to do business.  It was one of our larger delegations, and the quality and commitment of the group really helped tell Nebraska’s story and made an impact on the officials and business people we talked with in Mexico.

Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Steve Wellman was in Vietnam a couple weeks ago to promote Nebraska agriculture and to introduce potential buyers and distributors to quality Nebraska beef.  Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and Nebraska stands to benefit from that growth by focusing on increasing exports and identifying new business opportunities.

While in Vietnam, Director Wellman met with several agribusiness leaders and hosted a forum designed to introduce potential buyers and distributors interested in beef from Nebraska.  The forum was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink.  At the forum, Kritenbrink, a Nebraska native and a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Kearney, shared his memories of growing up on a farm near Ashland and emphasized the state’s leading role in agriculture.

During the trip, Director Wellman signed Letters of Intent with three Vietnamese companies interested in selling beef from Nebraska in Vietnam.  The Bao Ngoc Company, the largest of the three, currently has a distribution network of more than 10,000 grocery stores and 500 restaurants.  The other two businesses were D&A Vietnam JSC and Duc Anh Import Export.

These trade missions are a part of an overall trade strategy that I recently outlined with the Governor’s Council for International Relations, a committee of agriculture, business, and education groups involved in trade.  The Council has three areas of focus: growing exports, attracting new international investment, and identifying new opportunities for partnerships.  In early August, the Council unveiled a strategic plan for the next five years of our work in the area of international engagement.  The plan identified targeted countries like Vietnam and Mexico as good places for Nebraska to focus on increasing exports and identifying new business opportunities.

As you can see, trade is one of the best ways we can grow opportunities in agriculture across Nebraska.  In the coming years, we will continue to implement the strategies laid out in our plan, and we will identify new priorities as they arise along the way.  If you have suggestions about growing Nebraska through trade and agriculture, please contact me by emailing pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or by calling 402-471-2244.

The Department of Agriculture expects to send payments to farmers after the Labor Day holiday as part of a trade relief package.

The $12 billion package is intended for farmers who have been affected by foreign tariffs on U.S. farm products, all in retaliation to President Trump’s trade agenda. A USDA spokesperson confirmed to the Hagstrom Report the department is “on track” to remit payments after Labor Day, but declined to offer further details of the plan, which was expected to be announced by the end of the week.

USDA maintains that the agency is “currently engaged” in the federal rulemaking process, and Agri-Pulse reported this week the relief package was under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. Preliminary reports suggest the proposed payment rate for soybeans would be $1.65 per bushel, while corn growers would get only one cent per bushel.

The Department of Agriculture is expected to release further details of its trade relief package Friday.

The aid package previously announced by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will provide $12 billion in assistance to farmers hurt by President Trump’s trade agenda. Agri-Pulse reports that sources involved with the process say the payment rate for soybean farmers has been preliminarily proposed at $1.65 per bushel and one cent per bushel for corn farmers. However, further details regarding the plan have not been released officially, or leaked, leaving the industry in a phase of wonder.

USDA would not confirm or deny the proposed payment rates to Agri-Pulse. A USDA spokesperson told Agri-Pulse the department will not confirm the information because “it is based on preliminary information, is incomplete, and lacks context.” The proposed payment rates are subject to change as the plan is under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.