HELENA – Sen. Steve Daines said he highlighted the importance of free and open trade for Montana agriculture during a Thursday meeting with President Donald Trump.
Daines was among a number of elected leaders from agricultural states who took part in a roundtable discussion at the White House. He said he’s talked to a number of Montana farmers and ranchers who are concerned about the possible effects of recent trade disputes, especially with China.
“They want to make sure they have fair and free access to these important markets,” said Daines.
The Chinese government has threatened to put additional tariffs on U.S. agricultural products, like beef and wheat, as a response to President Trump’s announcement of tariffs on some Chinese goods.
Daines said the administration’s tougher negotiating tactics are justified, because China has engaged in unfair trading practices for years.
Daines said Trump suggested additional subsidy payments to compensate farmers for any losses from the higher tariffs, but that he told the president the idea didn’t appeal to Montana producers.
“They don’t want a handout. They want access to markets,” said Daines.
Daines also asked Trump to consider re-entering the multinational Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which he said would expand markets for Montana agriculture while putting additional pressure on China. Trump had previously been highly critical of the proposed agreement, but Daines said he expressed willingness to take another look at it.
Despite some concerns, Daines said he’s confident the Trump administration’s trade policies will eventually bring benefits for the agricultural industry.
“We all understand, and he understands, that the consequences of a trade war would be potentially harmful, for particularly farmers and ranchers; we made that very clear to him today,” he said. “But his tougher stance is bringing the Chinese to the table. We’ve got to think about this long-term.”
Daines recently returned from a congressional visit to China and South Korea. During the trip, he met with top Chinese leaders to discuss last year’s deal to allow U.S. beef imports to the country. They also discussed security concerns, including the threat from North Korea.