Trump signs USMCA agreement, calls trade aid ‘targeting fee’
President Donald Trump today signed H.R. 5430, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act, and talked about the benefits of the China trade deal for farmers, calling the trade aid the administration had provided not a subsidy but a “targeting fee” because the Chinese said they would stop importing U.S. farm products.
At a White House ceremony, Trump praised the many Republican officeholders for their help on USMCA, but even though the Democratic-controlled House’s passage of the bill was crucial, he did not invite any Democrats to the ceremony. House Democrats who worked on the bill held their own news conference and issued their own releases.
Mexico has already passed the agreement, but the Canadian Parliament still has to consider it, and that may take some time. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer today called Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland a “good friend.”
In his remarks, Trump repeated previous statements that USMCA is a big improvement over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“We’re finally ending the NAFTA nightmare and signing into law the brand-new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Very special. Very, very special,” Trump said.
“The USMCA is the largest, fairest, most balanced, and modern trade agreement ever achieved. There’s never been anything like it. Other countries are now looking at it, but there can’t be a border like that because, believe it or not, that is by far the biggest border anywhere in the world, in terms of economy, in terms of people. There’s nothing even close.”
Trump also predicted Canada will increase its agricultural purchases.
“This agreement is a tremendous breakthrough for American agriculture,” Trump said. “Canada will finally provide greater access for American dairy. Canada is opening up. It will grow annual exports to our neighbors by an estimated $315 million. Poultry exports to Canada are expected to rise by at least 50%, and egg export could increase by 500%. Where is the Canadian folks? Where are they? You guys did a good job on us before this deal, I’ll tell you. That’s – Canada was very tough. But they’re good. They’re our friends, so we appreciate it.
“Very importantly, Canada will finally give fair treatment to American-grown wheat.”
But Trump also devoted a substantial amount of time to the impact of the recently signed China deal on agriculture.
“We expect to be taking in $250 billion a year in purchases. They will be purchasing so much from our farmers. I’ve been saying they have to go out and buy, immediately, larger tractors and more land. I hope they can do it.”
Trump emphasized that his administration has made payments to farmers to make up for lost exports due to the trade conflicts.
“I called up our great Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny – who is probably around here someplace – and I said, ‘Sonny, what’s the biggest number?’ Sonny Perdue. And he said, ‘Sir, $16 billion is the biggest number.’ I said, ‘All right, but we’re going to make it up, because they were targeted’ – perhaps correctly. You know, China is negotiating. That’s why nobody wanted to take it on. They said, ‘We’re going to target your farmers.’ And every other leader of our country said, ‘Oh, we’re going to pass.’
“Our farmers were incredible because they said, ‘The president is doing the right thing.’ But I said, ‘What’s the number we’re talking about?’ And it was $16 billion, and it was $12 billion from the previous year. So it was $12 billion and $16 billion, and that was it. That was the maximum they’ve ever done.
“So I said, ‘You know what we have to do? We’re going to reimburse them and help them with $12 billion for the first year; $16 billion, same thing, for the second year.’ And the farmers got through. And they didn’t want that. Nobody wanted to call it a subsidy. And it wasn’t a subsidy; it was really a ‘targeting fee,’ you could call it.
“But our farmers – I’ll never forget – we had them over at the White House in the Cabinet Room. Thirty-five farmers. And they said, ‘Sir, we don’t want any money. We just want a level playing field. We don’t want money.’ And I said, ‘You know what? I’ve been president now’ – at that time – ‘for two and a half years.’ I said, ‘That’s the first time anybody has ever said that.’ Everybody wants money and they don’t care how they get it. This is the first time. They said, ‘We don’t want’ – ‘we just want a level playing field.’ They are the most incredible people.
“And when some of the people from the media – I’m going to be very nice today – the people from the media went out to the farms, and they went out to Iowa, and they went to Nebraska, they went to all of the different – many of the different states – and they said, ‘What do you think about what the president is doing?’ They all – I don’t think I heard one negative – no matter who it was, no matter which network. The farmers would say, ‘The president is doing the right thing. This should’ve been done a long time ago.’ I’ll never forget it. And now the farmers are going to be tremendous beneficiaries.
“In fact, when Bob was getting ready to sign the agreement, very close – we were a few days off – and I said, ‘What are we getting for the farmers?’ ‘Sir, we have it up to $20 billion purchased.’ I said, ‘Make it 50.’ They said, ‘What do you mean, ‘Make it 50’?’ Remember that one, Bob? I said, ‘Make it 50.’
“He said, ‘Sir, they can’t produce that much.’ I said, ‘They’ll find a way to do it.’ I think they’ll find a way.”
To Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Trump added, “Chuck, if they don’t find a way, I’m going to be very angry at you, OK? They’ll find a way. But it’s true. We had it down to 20; that’s more than they had ever done before. I said, ‘Make it 50.’ And they’re going to.”