President Donald Trump had a lot to say about trade during his State of the Union speech before Congress. However, there may be a battle over trade policy coming in the near future. Trump’s hardline policies are drawing increased scrutiny on Capitol Hill. There’s another bipartisan bill coming before Congress designed to limit the president’s ability to impose duties based on national security. As the president made his first-ever address to a divided Congress, he spoke about his signature achievement, the USMCA trade agreement. Politico says the new agreement now partly rests in the hands of the Democratic majority in the House. Trump calls the agreement a “win for farmers and manufacturers,” as well as a no-brainer when compared to the “historic trade blunder and catastrophe known as NAFTA.”
Democrats are already asking for some changes to the USMCA, including stronger labor protections. Several lawmakers also told Politico that there isn’t any hope of passing the pact while the steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico are in place. Trump was more guarded in talking about trade discussions with China, saying “any agreement with Beijing must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce the chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs.”
Agriculture groups heard some good things in the State of the Union speech. However, the reactions were somewhat mixed. Tariffs Hurt the Heartland group spokesman and former Congressman Charles Boustany reacted to President Trump asking Congress for more authority to impose tariffs through the Reciprocal Trade Act, which is currently before Congress. “The fact that the bill is dead on arrival in Congress is a good sign that Congress has had enough,” Boustany says. “It’s not surprising that a bill abdicating Congressional authority to oversee tariff increases isn’t popular.”
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston says, “We welcome President Trump’s call for passage of the USMCA agreement. With 96 percent of our potential consumers outside of our borders, foreign access is key for cattle producers.” American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall says, “Farmers and ranchers across the country need reforms to our immigration system, and we echo the president’s call for Congress to pass the USMCA agreement.” National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says the speech didn’t recognize the harsh realities facing U.S. farmers. “If the President truly wants to support American farm families, he’ll begin to restore our reputation as a reliable trading partner and stop straining relationships with our top trading partners,” says Johnson.