Grassley talks China, elections, farm bil

-The Hagstrom Report

In a statement that seemed intended to shore up the campaigns of Republican candidates who may be in trouble due to the impact of President Donald Trump’s tariffs on China, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, began his weekly telephone news conference today with a statement that he supports Trump’s efforts to bring China to the negotiating table over trade practices.

But Grassley also differed with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s statement Monday that the administration does not plan to offer any trade aid to farmers in 2019 if the drop in U.S. farm exports to China persists.

Perdue said he thinks the administration will proceed with a second round of trade aid later this year, but that aid will not be needed in 2019 because farmers will have had a time to adjust their plantings to reflect whatever the situation is with China.

In his weekly call to rural and agricultural reporters, Grassley said that he realizes that the loss of Chinese markets has caused farmers to be afraid, but that “we can’t let fear be the guiding force” in trade relations.

The president “has taken a hard line. I support these efforts,” Grassley said. He noted that he had voted for China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, but that China has not followed the rules since it joined the WTO.

But when asked about Perdue’s statement that trade aid would not be needed in 2019, Grassley said that question depends on the situation of the farmers next year and the status of negotiations with China.

Grassley said he was asked at town meetings earlier in the year about the China situation, but that now Iowa farmers seem to have “less anxiety” after the completion of the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, the agreement with Korea, and the start of negotiations with the European Union.

Grassley said he thinks the Republican campaigns of Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds for governor and Reps. David Young and Rod Blum are in better shape since the votes were taken on Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, but that “it’s going to be a close race” for all three in Iowa.

Grassley did not mention the re-election race of Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who lost the support of Land O’Lakes today. Grassley also said that there are “strategic” as well as economic reasons for the United States pursuing a bilateral free trade agreement with Japan. The negotiations, he said, could lead to Japan joining with the United States, Canada, Mexico and the European Union in a strong coalition to confront China.

Asked how the United States can form this coalition of allies when it still has tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Japan, Grassley said “I don’t know when they are going to go off,” but that the steel and aluminum tariffs “don’t serve any useful purpose,” particularly with Canada and Mexico.

Grassley said that an expected meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires “may not come up” because the United States does not yet have a united front with its allies.

On the farm bill, Grassley said that if the House Republicans and Trump back down on their demand for stiffer work requirements for food stamp beneficiaries, Congress will pass a farm bill “before Christmas,” but if they don’t there will have to be a one-year extension.