We’ve made a lot of progress over the last year, from reducing burdensome regulations to enacting tax reform that allows immediate expensing of equipment, raises the threshold for the estate tax, and lowers overall rates. We continue to make progress restoring our nation’s infrastructure, including protecting our dams and the benefits they provide.
I stand by the vision of President Trump’s economic agenda, and will continue to work with him and his administration to grow our economy, create jobs, and support our farmers. That being said, it’s essential that we do more to prioritize trade agreements and pursue smart trade policies that allow people here in Eastern Washington to access the worldwide marketplace.
Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the country, and especially here in Eastern Washington, we rely on free trade and market access every day to sell our crops all over the world. Nearly 90 percent of our wheat goes overseas, as does 50 percent of our potatoes. In fact, 95 percent of the world’s customers live outside the U.S.
I was concerned when President Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). While the TPP wasn’t perfect, I felt that remaining at the negotiating table was the best way to ensure that the United States was writing the rules for global trade, not China. What’s more, leaving NAFTA, KORUS, or other trade agreements — as the president at times has signaled — could put considerable strains on Eastern Washington’s economy. I am worried that the continued slow pace of negotiating new trade deals will limit opportunities in new markets and will leave farmers in Eastern Washington behind.
All over the world, you see countries negotiating trade deals with each other, leaving the United States in the dust. Europe and Japan, Canada and China, the list goes on and on. We are losing markets that took years to develop, and could take many years to get back.
Every time I meet with farmers here in Eastern Washington, trade is the number one concern I hear. They are worried, and rightfully so. Other countries put up trade barriers that must be addressed through trade deals or we put our farmers at a disadvantage. Retreat from the international marketplace is not the best direction for our farm economy and I will continue to make my concerns known.
We need to increase opportunities abroad that help decrease our trade deficit. In Congress, we are currently working to reauthorize the Farm Bill. One of my priorities is to adequately fund the Market Access and Foreign Market Development programs, which increases trading opportunities abroad, has returned $28 for every $1 spent, and has increased farm income by $2.1 billion between 2002 and 2014.
I am also urging President Trump to reverse course on the recently announced tariffs on steel and aluminum and instead work towards a targeted approach which would lessen the negative impact on our trade relationships and our economy. Recently, I joined more than 100 of my colleagues here in the House in writing a letter to the president making him aware of our concerns and encouraging him to pursue a more strategic, focused approach.
It’s true that there are bad actors in the world, and while I understand the intent behind President Trump’s tariffs, to hold China accountable for dumping steel and aluminum into our economy, we must have an approach that doesn’t alienate allies and risk a trade war.
The American farmer has been at the forefront of all of our modern trade deals, and I’d like to see us pursue new trade opportunities with India, the Philippines, Malaysia, and other Asian nations. I also believe that while we shouldn’t be pulling out of NAFTA, there is a need to modernize this agreement to ensure it remains beneficial for us and our farmers and keeps up with the realities of the 21st Century economy.
Farmers and manufacturers in Eastern Washington have, and will continue to have, a champion for fair trade as I urge the administration to walk back tariffs, stop threats, and move more quickly on negotiating trade agreements that are good for all of us.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers represents Eastern Washington in the U.S. House.