Thune to Lighthizer: China trade conflict ruining cattle hide market |

Thune to Lighthizer: China trade conflict ruining cattle hide market

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifies before the Senate Finance Committee this morning.
Photo by Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report

In an example of the problems rural America is experiencing due to the trade conflict with China, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer a South Dakota meat locker owner had told him he used to sell cattle hides from slaughter to the Chinese, but now has to pay to have them taken away.

At a Senate Finance Committee hearing on President Donald Trump’s trade agenda, Thune told Lighthizer that the man recently told him he used to sell hides for $150 each to a company that sold them to the Chinese.

Now the owner has to pay $600 to have the hides taken away, and the expense adds up to $40,000 per year, Thune said.

“The concern of farmers in my state is that we risk losing market share” in China, Mexico and Canada, Thune said. He added that he is worried that the process for Congress approving the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement will drag into the election year.

But Lighthizer responded that a process for approval is in place, that the agreement has been negotiated “in a bipartisan way,” and that he believes the people involved in the approval process have a sense of urgency about getting the agreement finished.

Lighthizer’s main message at the hearing was that Congress should approve USMCA and that the agreement is good for many sectors, including the dairy, poultry and wheat growers within agriculture.

Lighthizer said he believes that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been “fair” in the process, and noted that she has established a trade working group.

But Lighthizer vigorously defended Trump’s approach to trade. The problems with China demanding access to U.S. intellectual property were so bad that “it is the shame” of his predecessors as trade representative and members of Congress who did not deal with the issue in the past, he said.

The Trans Pacific Agreement which other countries have continued after Trump withdrew was “a bad agreement,” Lighthizer said. Cars made mostly in Vietnam and China could have been sold in the United States without tariffs and the agreement did not deal with currency issues, he said.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., told Lighthizer that “for a week we had the president throw a temper tantrum” by threatening to impose an additional 5% tariff on Mexican goods over immigration issues.

Menendez asked Lighthizer if he thinks it was “appropriate” to threaten with Mexico with tariffs over immigration issues and Lighthizer responded that it was “absolutely” appropriate because the president believed there was a national crisis.

Lighthizer told the senators he realizes he has to “plus it up” on enforcement of labor and environmental provisions to convince wavering senators that they should support the agreement. ❖

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