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Transcript of tariff portion of Heitkamp-Cramer debate

35:30 Dave Thompson of Prairie Public:

Tariffs — and Sen. Heitkamp is first — tariff policy, it can be argued that farmers are being hurt perhaps because of the tariff policy and the trade war if you want to call that. What needs to happen?

35:40 Heitkamp:

Dave, there’s no argument farmers are getting hurt. And I’m going to fight, fight, fight for farmers. And I’m going to fight for doing the right thing for American and North Dakota agriculture. We are going to be short in our income and our revenue into this state in new wealth creation by a billion dollars because not only do we have tariffs on our soybeans — we can’t sell them. We can’t sell them, potentially losing that market forever. And I think it’s interesting, Congressman Cramer’s surrogate recently in CNN said farmers should be happy with the prices that they have right now. Talk to any farmer. They’re not happy. They’re nervous and they’re concerned and they have great worry about whether they’re going to meet their expenses and be able to pay their operating loans. You know what the expert that I think we should listen to: one that works right here at NDSU who says we are in a “black swan” moment. We could lose our revenue for many, many years, and this is a policy that’s failing our farmers and is failing the American economy. It’s failing American agriculture.

36:45 Cramer

So, this president plays hardball. There’s no question about it. And by the way many farmers I’ve talked to have said, why didn’t the president do this a long time ago? Once again, we wouldn’t have this dramatic situation if previous presidents would confront China’s cheating in many — China subsidizes three crops $100 billion more than WTO allows them to every year.  That’s seven — by 100 billion that’s seven years of American farm programs in total. If we continue down this path, they’re going to eat our lunch, as they’ve already started to do. But this president has demonstrated by his drawing lines in the sand that you don’t, you’re not allowed to cross has brought Canada and Mexico — 88 percent of North Dakota’s exports go to Canada and Mexico — brought them to the table and did a deal called the U.S.-Mexican-Canadian Agreement. He did a deal with South Korea. He now has the United Kingdom, the European Union and Japan all in negotiations with him. In fact, China represents 1 percent of North Dakota’s exports. Australia represents 2 percent of North Dakota’s exports. And this is why I asked, realizing we could get into a protracted trade war, this is why I was the first member of Congress to ask USDA to come up with a mitigation plan using the very funds that they’re using to help our farmers in the short term as we work on markets. Obviously we’re going to go back and forth a little while and we’ll have several one minutes opportunities I suspect.

38:12 Heitkamp:

Blind faith in this administration is not well placed. The Chamber of Commerce knows that these tariffs are hurting us, that this trade war is hurting us. The Koch brothers know that this trade war is hurting us, and certainly our farmers know that this trade war is hurting us. Find it interesting that he raises the new NAFTA, I’ll call it that. You know, I’ve been criticized by Congressman Cramer for bringing a trade delegation to the Mexican Embassy. Guess who was the first group that actually agreed to a trade agreement. It was the Mexicans. Like to think that maybe reaching out to the Mexicans makes a difference. Congressman Cramer, the one provision we needed desperately in the new NAFTA from Canada, that one provision, was grain grading reform. He almost cost us grain grading reform by rash and harsh statements against Canada. That’s not a kind of senator who’s going to help in fighting against this trade policy. This is the kind of person whose blind loyalty to a president and to an administration will sell our farmers down the road. I cannot point to a spot where I feel stronger about how we need to have a unified voice here in North Dakota to protect our farmers against a trade war that literally could bankrupt thousands of our farmers. We need to stand with our farmers.

39:33 Cramer:

Senator when these were proposed, I testified at two USTR hearings and I didn’t see you at either one of those hearings, by the way, testifying on behalf of these farmers. But it is interesting that you point to a news story to say that I almost undid this grain grading thing by harsh comments when the sources were two unnamed Canadian sources familiar and not even the ambassador would verify that story. On the other hand, it was the President of the United States right here in Fargo, N.D., who read directly from a postcard from Air Force One written in my handwriting, and that’s what brought the grain grading issue not to the other side to our side. And if you want to talk about unity you want to end the trade war, unify behind the United States instead of China. Stand with us and we’ll end this trade war in a hurry. But you go over there and undermine our president’s authority and our president’s leverage they play us like a fiddle.

40:30 Heitkamp:

Kevin, If you represent North Dakota, you better stand with North Dakota farmers. You better stand with North Dakota agriculture. You better stand with our people. You better stand with our people against trade policies that are devastating, devastating family farmers here in this country. Against trade policies that are devastating our ag equipment manufacturers. Ford announcing lower profitability. Caterpillar announcing lower profitability. Why do you think the stock market has this level of volatility? This is dangerous policy. And if you can’t as a United States senator stand at a podium and protect and defend the people of this state against bad administration policies, then you don’t belong in that job.

41:20 Cramer:

So, standing with communist China in a trade war against the United States of America is not standing with North Dakota’s farmers. I had a round table discussion in here with soybean farmers from North Dakota with Sen. Joni Ernst, one of your colleagues from a big soybean and corn producing state. Do you know I couldn’t get one of them to oppose the tariffs. Not one of them. You know what they said? Well, this is why we have bins. This is why I sold that 10.50 a bushel.

41:52 Heitkamp:

If I had my phone here, I’d show you a picture of a mound of soybeans on the ground in the rain in Casselton. There are no bins, Kevin. Those beans will be wrecked by that rain. They’ll be wrecked by the exposure to the elements.

42:07 Cramer:

Here’s the other thing that happened. We are now providing over half the supply to a granted to a market that’s half the size of China, but to the European Union. I was the signature on behalf of the United States Congress in a ceremony with Taiwan purchasing 30 percent more soybeans than they did last year. We are in the process in North Dakota of getting of converting a refinery to use North Dakota and American soybeans to make to make oil products for California domestic markets. We need to continue to develop our markets because China isn’t going to just roll over and give up because you know you’re on their side. They’re not going to do it. We need to be on our side.

42:50 Heitkamp:

Do we need to grow markets? Absolutely we need to grow markets. Seventy percent, 70 percent, in fact 98 percent of our market is gone. Gone this year. We haven’t been able to move any soybeans off the Pacific Northwest. We came into this grow year, ladies and gentleman, very fragile. We talk to bankers all the time in my office. We wondered if we were going to get operating loans. Guess what? Do you know how hard it’s going to be next year when there is absolutely no dollars in their pockets and the trade aid has not come anywhere near to solve this problem? It’s not going to put enough money in the pocket so that our farmers can farm next year. And that’s the tragedy of where we are right now. And I will stand on this podium and I will argue against these failed trade policies. Incidentally, the latest report, Kevin, that came out of the economic analysis of last quarter, what do you think the exports were off?

Cramer: You tell me.

Heitkamp: Well, we are importing now over dramatically more than we were. No, no, I’m telling you. Our exports are down and our imports are up. And you need to look at this and you guys can laugh. You’ve got to look at this data. The date is real. Since the trade war started, our trade deficit with China has exploded. So if this was designed to eliminate the trade deficit, it’s not working.

44:30 Cramer:

OK, this is clearly a long-term play and that’s what this president understands. You cannot turn around 30 years of bad trade policy in one month, in one season.

Heitkamp: But, Kevin, why has the trade deficit gone up.

Cramer: Your time will come, senator.

Heitkamp: Yeah.

Cramer: Because this is a long-term deal. And by the way, with regard to deficits, i know the president likes to talk about deficits a lot, but do you know why we’re importing more than ever? Because people have more money than they ever have. There’s more jobs, higher incomes, rocketship economy. That’s why. We’re the consumers. And by the way, by the way, this is the leverage this president understands. This country is 20 percent of the world’s productivity. We are 20 percent of the world’s consumption. Nobody wants to be outside of a trade deal outside of the United States for very long. He understands that leverage. He understands it, he’s exercising it. But it’s difficult when you have politicians from our country running to the other country to undermine his leverage while hes negotiating a better long-term deal for our farmers and everybody else.

45:40 Heitkamp:

The United States of America is less than 5 percent of global population. Our greatest asset is our trade relationships with countries who aren’t China. That’s called the Trans Pacific Partnership. This president took us out of that and made it virtually impossible for us to collaborate and build markets within that unit. He didn’t try and renegotiate. He just said we’re out. That was the beginning of a very bad step in trying to curtail Chinese dominance in the Pacific. And we have got - And it’s also a bad national security strategy. And so there is a clear difference between Congressman Cramer and me on trade. You’ve heard it right here. You’ve heard a great debate. He is all in on the president, and I’m all in on North Dakota.

Dave Thompson: One more.

46:30 Cramer:

Sure, so with regard to the Trans Pacific Partnership, I was a vote for TPA. I was uncommitted on TPP, and the reality of it is, trade promotion authority, Trans Pacific Partnership, the reality is, TPP had no chance of passing either the house or the senate. We had to start over and we had to start dealing with Asian Rim populations perhaps one at a time, two at a time, and this president has done that. He’s finished the South Korean deal, called KORUS. He’s in negotiations with Japan. He’s working even in other parts beyond beyond the Asian Rim, working on deals with India. There’s lots of markets out there. But you have to isolate China or they’re going to continue to cheat on us and they’re going to continue to build vessels and fighter jets and fake islands in the South Pacific South China Sea. They’re out to take over the world. This is not a trifling matter.

47:23 Heitkamp:

Yeah, and our greatest asset in all that is our trading partners that we walked away from. Do you know the first thing Japan said when they said we’re going to negotiate a bilateral with you? Japan said agriculture is off the table. And that’s the truth about trade. When you do multilateral trade, agriculture does better.

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