Wednesday, President Trump signed the much-anticipated “Phase One” trade agreement with China after months of hard-fought negotiations.
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This is a monumental achievement for farmers and ranchers in my district in West Texas and across rural America, who will reap the blessings of China’s commitment to purchasing as much as $50 billion worth of U.S. agriculture products. This is nearly 100 percent more than the largest amount of U.S. commodities purchased by China since normalizing relations in the 1970s.
And while a new horizon appears to be in sight for our producers who have been struggling in recent years, we must not lose sight of what’s at stake if we fail to hold China accountable for its abusive tactics.
For decades, as a result of political short-sightedness and economic expediency, policymakers have acquiesced to Communist-controlled China, allowing them to steal our intellectual property, manipulate their currency, and engage in a host of other unfair and unseemly practices.
China has been waging economic war on the United States and, until now, they’ve been winning.
For example, since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, the United States has shipped more than 3.4 million jobs overseas and shuttered 70,000 American factories.
No group has borne the brunt of China’s bad behavior and unjustified retaliatory tariffs more than our nation’s agriculture producers, who have watched the value of their exports to China plummet by more than $10 billion in the past two years.
For cotton exports alone – a third of which come from the 100-mile radius around Lubbock, Texas in my district – we’ve lost half of our market share in China.
And with the supply of U.S. cotton projected to be the largest in over a decade for this upcoming year, our cotton growers are more than ready to meet the new demand.
As a representative from West Texas – the food, fuel, and fiber capital of the United States – I can tell you the pain from China’s retaliatory tariffs is real for both farmers and the small towns they call home.
They know it’s the right thing to do, and they know it won’t be easy, but they are willing to make the necessary sacrifices for the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
I commend the president for his efforts to mitigate the impact of this ongoing trade war by using the tariff revenue for temporary trade relief known as the Market Facilitation Program.
These supplemental funds have been a lifeline for producers who were already struggling before the fallout with China, including record bankruptcies and the steepest decline in farm incomes since the Great Depression.
In the long run, we must seek to offset the Chinese export market by tapping into new markets and reaching new customers.
To that end, thanks to President Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, we have successfully negotiated a new and improved trade relationship with Mexico and Canada that will create over 170,000 new jobs, level the playing field with Mexico, and open up the Canadian market to more American dairy, wheat, and poultry products.
On top of that, the recent trade agreement with Japan will benefit U.S. farmers and ranchers by reducing or eliminating tariffs on more than $7 billion of U.S. agriculture exports.
Japan is, by far, the largest export market for American beef, and this agreement ensures that our beef producers will not lose out on $1.2 billion in exports over the next decade.
At this critical juncture in history, we are fortunate to have a Negotiator-in-Chief who understands that China is the biggest existential threat to America and, more importantly, who has the political courage to do something about it.
This may be our only opportunity to go the distance with China and rein in the Red Dragon, and we cannot afford to squander it by settling for mere political victories.
The ancient Chinese Military Strategist Sun Tzu wrote in his famous work, “The Art of War,” “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
It may feel like a hundred battles to our farmers since the first retaliatory tariffs were levied on the US, but -- if we stay the course and stick to our principles -- there are greener pastures on the other side.
Congressman Jodey Arrington represents Texas’ 19th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a member of the Committee on Ways and Means and is a former senior adviser to President George W. Bush.