South Dakota political and farm leaders were in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 15, to celebrate President Trump signing a trade deal with China that is expected to increase sales of U.S. crops to the giant customer for American food.
Pierre’s own U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., was treated to a shout-out from the president in the introduction to the signing ceremony.
Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed the deal in which the U.S. agrees to cut some tariffs on Chinese goods while China agrees to buy a lot more farm goods as well as energy and manufactured goods, according to news reports.
Trump made a big deal out of the deal, emphasizing how much it will mean to American farmers and farm-state lawmakers, as he mentioned several by name: “... like Mike Rounds ... It’s about everything you stand for, especially the farmers,” Trump said. “Where is Mike Rounds? Where are you? Stand up, Mike.”
Rounds stands up in the large room for a few moments, then re-takes his seat, according to video of the event provided by his office.
“He was brutal to me,” Trump said. “He kept calling me, ‘We gotta get it done. We gotta get it done.’ Thank you very much, Mike. Fantastic job.”
Later Wednesday, Rounds released a statement on the deal: “The ‘phase one’ deal signed today is great news for South Dakota farmers, ranchers and manufacturers. Under this agreement, China has agreed to purchase at least $40 billion of our agricultural products. This will provide some much-needed relief to our farmers and ranchers who have been at the tip of the spear throughout the trade negotiations by reestablishing markets for them to sell their products. We still have more to do to make sure China lives up to its obligations, and phase one is the first step in that process. I thank President Trump for his efforts to make sure our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers are getting a fair deal.”
Gov. Kristi Noem quickly shifted gears from giving the State of the State address on Tuesday at the state Capitol in Pierre to jetting out to the nation’s Capitol to witness Trump’s trade deal get inked.
“I arrived at the White House today with a couple of friends from SD,” she tweeted. “Jerry Schmitz, a soybean producer, and Craig Andersen, a pork producer. They joined me here to be with (President Trump) as he signed the phase one trade agreement with China! A BIG win for SD producers! The agreement (he) locked in today is an incredible economic victory for South Dakota producers. This historic deal opens up new markets and advances opportunities for farmers and ranchers to do what they do best: feed the world.”
China has been the main overseas customer for South Dakota’s corn, soybeans and meat, especially pork, so the past two years of trade fights has been blamed by many farmers for depressing the prices they have received.
They seemed sunny on Wednesday in Washington.
In Noem’s news release, Jerry Schmitz, a farmer who is executive director of South Dakota Soybean, said: “The pioneer spirit lives on in South Dakota agriculture, and today’s agreement could very well be the new horizon we need to extend our operations and continue producing the food, feed, fiber, and fuel for the world.” Schmitz raises corn and soybeans.
Craig Andersen, a board member of the National Pork Producers Council and a South Dakota hog farmer, said: “I applaud the administration for its hard work in negotiating a deal that includes U.S. agriculture purchase commitments by China. It’s no secret China is facing a pork shortage, and we urge China to support the purchase commitments it has made through this agreement.”
According to Noem, the new trade deal requires structural reforms to China’s economic and trade regime in the areas of agriculture, financial services, intellectual property, technology transfer, and currency and foreign exchange.
South Dakota’s lone member of the House, U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, could not make the signing ceremony, but released a statement: “Under the agreement, China has committed to purchasing $200 billion of American goods and services over the next two years, including a commitment to purchase $40 billion per year in agriculture products. This agreement contains structural provisions to remove trade barriers for U.S. beef, pork, and poultry that have limited access to the Chinese market.:
U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., also was one of the lawmakers singled out by Trump for kudos on Wednesday, according to news reports.
It appeared to be mostly Republican leaders and industry representatives Wednesday at the signing, praising the new deal.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., from Detroit Lakes and the most veteran Democrat on farm issues in the House and chair of House Ag committee, said Wednesday on his website that he was cautiously optimistic about the new deal.
“My district produces everything from dairy, meat and poultry, to feed and pet food, to alfalfa and ethanol. This agreement appears to include positive structural changes and commitments that could increase access to the Chinese market for those and other products produced in districts across the country,” said Peterson. He praised the USDA and trade officials who “have worked so hard to get us to this point. The question now is whether China will play by the rules it has agreed to here. I’m also concerned that, long-term, certain crops may not regain the foothold they lost in the trade war. If those purchases don’t materialize, I worry what effects that will have on the markets for crops like soybeans and sorghum.”
Peterson said the trade battles that began in 2017 have “disrupted marketing arrangements that farmers built over the last few decades, and introduced Chinese purchasers to new supplies from our competitors.”
Some trade experts said that while the trade deal appears to improve things, it doesn’t deal with most of the long term subsidy policy China uses that is seen by U.S. leaders as the unfair trade practices that started this two-year tiff. One economist told Politico that while the new deal might make things better now, it really only gets back to conditions as they were before Trump started his trade war with China.