Montana Lawmakers Say Ag Producers Will Benefit From U.S.-China Trade Deal

Jan 15, 2020

Some Montana lawmakers are applauding the U.S.-China trade agreement signed Jan. 15, saying it’s a big win for the state’s agricultural producers. Critics say a trade war with the world’s second largest economy should not have happened in the first place.

Policymakers say the initial agreement with China cools tensions after a year-and-a-half long trade war and escalating tariffs.

The U.S. has agreed not to impose or reduce tariffs on some products from China, including cellphones and laptops.

China says it will do more to protect American companies' intellectual property and purchase an additional 200 billion dollars worth of American goods and services by 2021. That includes at least 40 billion dollars worth of U.S. food, agricultural, and seafood products annually for the next two years.

Montana U.S. Senator Steve Daines and Cascade County Commissioner Joe Briggs joined President Trump Wednesday for the signing ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Briggs, who represents 15 Western states on the executive committee of the National Association of Counties, says the U.S.-China trade deal has “far reaching ramifications economically,” especially for farmers and ranchers in north-central Montana.

“The deal itself obviously just has dollar amounts, the commitment levels of China’s increased purchases for ag products. There’s nothing specifically that says who gets those contracts. So our folks will obviously have to compete for it,” Briggs says.

Briggs says even if Montana’s ag producers don’t win the contracts, the bigger market in China should help improve overall prices. He’s also confident Senator Daines can help Montana get its fair share from the deal.

Daines is Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over international trade, and a member of the U.S. Senate China Working Group.

“Senator Daines has been at the forefront of trying to get the Chinese beef market open and this deal definitely gets that accomplished, but also pork and poultry, which we provide a lot of out of north-central Montana,” Briggs says.

Briggs says the trade deal could also help Montana’s pulse crop industry.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester said in a statement Wednesday the initial agreement with China is a welcome first step but there’s a lot more work to do to end “this self-inflicted trade war.”

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association’s President Jennifer Houston said in a conference call Wednesday afternoon the deal with China will reduce trade barriers to a market with one-fifth of the world’s population.

“We know that when they get a taste of this beef, this market is going to absolutely explode and be a positive event for all of America’s beef producers,” Houston says.

Kent Bacus with the Association said the U.S. exported $70 million worth of beef products to China last year. In comparison, $1.8 billion worth of beef went to Japan and $1.7 billion to South Korea last year.

With ink dried on a deal with China, the full Senate now turns its attention to the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement later this week.