Former Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that President Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with China will be harder on the farm economy than many producers may think, pushing some into bankruptcy and stressing related industries.
“I think it’s going to cause a lot more than a little financial pain. I think it’s going to cause a lot of them to go bankrupt,” the Democratic presidential front-runner told reporters as he campaigned at the Iowa State Fair on Thursday.
"It’s going to cause a lot of ancillary industries like the industries that make all the tractors, make all the farm equipment, they’re going to be in real trouble,” he added.
But Biden, like many of his challengers, is trying to avoid suggesting that Trump is being too hard on China, a longtime target of Democratic lawmakers, while instead faulting the way the president is carrying out his trade policy.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has repeatedly called on Trump to stay tough with China while urging him to find more foreign allies in the effort, and Biden echoed that advice.
“China is stealing our intellectual property, China is stealing industries from us. Unless we are in fact able to unite the world in taking on China they’re going to get the rules of the road,” Biden said.
Biden didn’t say what he would specifically do to get other countries to join the United States in putting pressure on China. Asked about his administration’s record with China, Biden cited successes in getting China to join the Paris climate agreement and standing up to Chinese attempts to exert control over the South China Sea.
“We did an awful lot with China,” he said.
What Biden didn’t mention was the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was designed — in part — to isolate China economically. The agreement was finalized during the Obama administration, but Trump promptly withdrew from it shortly after taking office, and Biden has abandoned his support for the deal as written during his campaign for president.
During a wide-ranging speech at the fair, Biden hit the major issues on which he and other Democrats are focusing, including health care, education and climate change.
He didn’t mention farm policy directly but he said that farmers would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of his $44 billion plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Biden canceled a stop at the Iowa Pork Producers Association’s building, a traditional stop for many candidates, especially Republicans.
Mark Meirick, a pork producer from Cresco, Iowa, who was manning a grill at the Iowa Pork site, said most of the Democratic candidates, including Biden, have moved too far left to appeal to farmers, no matter how anxious they may be about the trade war and China’s retaliatory tariffs.
He acknowledged, however, that the trade uncertainty could dampen rural turnout if it lingers into the general election.
“Some people could get fed up with the whole thing. They don’t like the Democratic candidate and they’re not really in love with Trump either … People could stay home, and if they are traditional Republican voters, that would hurt,” he said.
A Democratic candidate who is trying to run as a centrist, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, also stopped at the fair and urged his party not to overly focus on Trump. “We can win this as long as we’re not chasing every one of Trump’s tweets,” he said.
Bullock’s response to Trump’s trade war was similar to Biden’s: Work with allies to isolate China, he told reporters. “Donald Trump has taken this thing of America first and made it America alone,” he said. “We’ve got to be tough on China, but we can’t do it alone.”
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, meanwhile, released some rural policy proposals. They include establishing a $50 billion Rural Future Partnership Fund that would provide grants for a variety of purposes, including rebuilding water lines and affordable housing, farm-to-market roads and railroad improvements and developing regional food systems.
She also wants to spend $60 billion on rural broadband expansion.
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