House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson supports Joe Biden’s plan to eliminate President Donald Trump’s tariffs on China but said he isn’t sure what the alternative is for countering Chinese trade practices.
“First thing I want to see is to stop these tariffs. I think it’s been a counterproductive situation,” Peterson said Friday during an online Biden campaign roundtable on agriculture.
Peterson blamed U.S. trade problems with China on the 2000 vote in Congress that cleared the way for China to join the World Trade Organization. The 2000 measure formally normalized trade relations with the Chinese.
Peterson noted that he voted against the China bill. “It is not a surprise they’re behaving the way they are” as a result, he said. But he didn’t mention that Biden voted for it, a position speakers attacked during this week’s Republican National Convention.
Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday night also criticized Biden for promising to eliminate tariffs “that are leveling the playing field for American workers.”
On Thursday night, Trump also went after Biden on China. “For 47 years, Joe Biden took the donations of blue collar workers, gave them hugs and even kisses, and told them he felt their pain — and then he flew back to Washington and voted to ship their jobs to China and many other distant lands,” Trump said.
But Peterson said the trade war had failed to fix Chinese trade practices. “I don’t know if I have a political answer how to fix that problem, but it certainly isn’t what they’re doing,” he said.
Rep. Filemon Vela, a Texas Democrat who chairs the House Ag Committee’s subcommittee on general farm commodities and risk management, said Trump’s trade wars have been “devastating to farmers across the board.”
He said Biden would be “thoughtful and measured” in dealing with the trade issue. Trump’s approach, by contrast, was “punitive and it was abrupt, and it really just threw everything upside down.”
Kim Ratcliff, a cattle producer from east Texas and one of several farmers who participated in the Biden campaign event, said the United States needed to work with allies to address trade issues with China, something Biden has said he would do.
She also said it was important to communicate to voters how the trade wars are ultimately affecting them. “It's a trickle effect. ... We have to go back to let those non-farmers realize how what is affecting farmers is affecting them."
Rick Telesz, a dairy and grain farmer from Pennsylvania, noted that Trump said nothing in his 70-minute acceptance speech Thursday night about his second-term agenda for farm policy.
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“After this election, if he wins, he won’t have a use for the American farm vote. We’ll be forgotten,” Telesz said.
Telesz as well as Peterson also criticized the Trump administration for giving refiners waivers from annual biofuel mandates.
“I don’t trust this administration one inch” when it comes to administering the Renewable Fuel Standard, said Peterson.
He praised Biden and running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, “for standing up and saying that if they're elected they are not going to be giving out these waivers right and left like this administration did. And then we’re going to have 15 billion gallons of ethanol (consumed annually). That’s what we were promised (under the RFS) and what we need. If we did that we would have a much better price situation all across agriculture.”
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