Iowans praise signing of initial China deal

By: - January 15, 2020 2:25 pm
Aerial view of a combine harvesting soybeans

An Iowa farmer is leading a nationwide class-action lawsuit against the manufacturers of a commonly used weed-killer linked to Parkinson’s Disease.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Reaction from Iowa on President Trump’s signing of the initial trade deal with China and was quick and mostly positive, with a dose of time-will-tell. 

The phase one deal includes a promise from China that it will double its purchases from U.S. farmers in the first year, CNN reported.

China is one of the largest markets for Iowa soybeans and pork.

Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association, leaves Jan. 30 for a trip to Pakistan, where he hopes to nurture a new market to take the sting out of lower sales to China. In an interview, Leeds said he’s optimistic that the phase one deal will mean the U.S. market regains a good share of its past trade with China, but he doubts the Communist nation will turn its back on Brazil and others that now provide grain on a regular basis.

“Certainly, it’s a positive thing, we think,” Leeds said of the phase one pact. “We clearly appear to have a truce. We clearly appear to have some positive movement. Time will tell whether or not some of the provisions and promises that have been made to double purchases in the U.S.” will result in a large increase in soybean exports, Leeds said.

“I find it hard to believe that the Chinese will allow themselves to be as dependent on the U.S. beans as they were after the investments they made in Brazil,” Leeds added.

Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Hill said the pact shows welcome progress. “Iowa farmers have long pushed for more free and open markets, and we are pleased with the progress towards that goal through the phase one China trade deal,” Hill said in a statement.  “Free and fair trade with China represents countless opportunities for Iowa agriculture in a growing market with a demand for U.S. ag products.”

Hill noted that China has historically been the top market for U.S. ag exports. “China is a valued trading partner and we look forward to growing the relationship,” Hill said.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is a Republican from New Hartford, Iowa.

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Ia., was on hand for the phase one pact signing ceremony.

“President Trump and Ambassador (Robert) Lighthizer should be commended for this significant progress toward a full and enforceable deal with China,” Grassley said in a statement. “Farmers have borne the brunt of retaliation throughout this trade war.

“At the White House today, I was thinking of my neighbors in Iowa and all the other farmers across the country who have stood strong throughout this process,” Grassley said. 

Grassley remained cautious about future trade with the Communist power. “I hope this proves to be a turning point in our economic relationship with China, but I’ve seen enough history to be clear-eyed,” Grassley said. “Not only must China follow through with its commitments in this Phase One deal, but also work toward a comprehensive agreement that ends forced technology transfers, intellectual property theft and unfair restrictions on U.S. goods, including agriculture. Only then will we know if China can be a reliable economic partner in the 21st century.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds
Gov. Kim Reynolds discusses legislative issues in her office at the Statehouse on Dec. 19, 2019 (Photo by Kathie Obradovich/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican whose predecessor and mentor, former Gov. Terry Branstad, is U.S. ambassador to China and worked on the deal, said in a statement she considers the pact “historic.” A day after delivering her Condition of the State address at the Iowa Statehouse, she attended the signing of the 86-page trade agreement. 

“Today, President Trump secured a historic win for the American people,” Reynolds said. “Forging a stronger trade agreement with China puts Iowa farmers, families, and small businesses first.

“By opening and expanding markets for our products, protecting intellectual property, and setting standards for currency valuation, President Trump has provided the American economy with a foundation for exponential growth and economic prosperity,” Reynolds said. She thanked Branstad and Lighthizer for their months of work behind the scenes. 

The Iowa Business Council welcomed the news. 

“The signing of phase one agreement between the U.S. and China is an important first step toward stabilizing our global trade relationships,” IBC Executive Director Joe Murphy said in a statement.

“Increases in purchases of American farm, manufactured and energy goods and services by China coupled with enhanced protections for American companies are key pieces to providing certainty for Iowa businesses to thrive. We look forward to the agreement taking effect,” Murphy added.

Part of the negotiations with China have surrounded addressing a long practice of the Chinese demanding access to intellectual property in return for access to the market, and in some cases allegations of theft of trade secrets.

Head shot of Cindy Axne
U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne is a Democrat who represents Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District.

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, a Democrat who serves on the House Agricultural Committee, said she hopes the deal helps Iowa farmers who “have been the ones to pay the price” as China retaliated against the U.S. tariffs by targeting U.S. soybeans and pork for tit-for-tat actions. Iowa leads the U.S. in pork production and pork exports and is the second-largest producer of soybeans.

“As I’ve traveled through Southwest Iowa, I have heard concerns directly from farmers I represent in Washington — concerns about how long this trade war has gone on, how difficult it will be to reclaim lost markets, and how deep the seeds of uncertainty have been laid as a result of protracted tensions with China,” Axne said in a statement.

“I’m hopeful that today’s phase one agreement with China puts us on a path to ending this harmful trade war, and I will closely monitor the implementation to ensure Iowans are receiving what they’re promised,” Axne added.

“This administration must finalize a deal that will be enough to make up for what Iowa farmers have lost. We have seen China go back on their word time and time again, and any agreement must reflect a need for guarantees and enforcement mechanisms to protect our farmers’ futures.”

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a statement, “The Trump Administration’s phase one trade agreement with China is another huge win for Iowa farmers. Under this trade deal, China has committed to purchasing at least $200 billion in American products and services, along with $32 billion in agricultural products over the next two years.”

Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the regional chamber in central Iowa, said, We are pleased that the U.S. and China have reached a phase one trade deal. We are hopeful that this agreement will result in increased export opportunities for Iowa businesses and producers.”


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