Weekly Column

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After World War II, our nation forged new trade deals and opened markets to create unprecedented economic growth. However, in the decades that followed, some interests and priorities have shifted. America needed to refocus and update our trade deals to level the playing field and restore fairness and reciprocity for the hardworking men and women of the heartland.

When one in four of our state’s jobs are directly related to production agriculture, Nebraskans need certainty that our trading markets are secure.

For years now, that’s exactly where my focus has been, and I have worked closely with President Trump to build on the tremendous momentum our economy has created to deliver trade deals with Canada, Mexico, China, and Japan. These historic agreements restore principles of fairness, reciprocity, and prioritize Nebraska’s families and workers.

I was proud to join some of my Midwest Senate colleagues as we took part in a signing ceremony for the USMCA and sent the agreement to the president’s desk for his signature.

Passage of the USMCA meant securing our state’s two largest markets. Currently, Canada and Mexico receive 44 percent of Nebraska’s total exports. In 2018, Nebraska sent nearly $1.5 billion of ag products to our neighbors to the north and south. According to USDA, Canada and Mexico purchase more than 82 percent of distillers grains exports and nearly 80 percent of our dairy exports. There is no doubt that this broad bipartisan agreement will benefit Nebraska’s farmers and ag producers both now and in the future as they continue to feed the world.

The new decade also ushered in encouraging progress in strengthening our trade relationship with China.

On January 15th, President Trump and Chinese representatives signed a “Phase One” agreement, which is a significant win for Nebraska and represents China’s return to the table as a major customer of our agricultural products. China has agreed to purchase, on average, $40 billion of U.S. agricultural goods per year for the next two years.

Nebraska Farm Bureau predicts that, “At the very least, agricultural exports to China this year should be $32 billion and should equal $39 billion in 2021. For context, peak U.S. agricultural exports to China were nearly $26 billion in 2012.” The agreement also includes provisions that address a multitude of non-tariff barriers for commodities like beef, dairy, animal feed, and biotech products. 

In addition to agriculture, the agreement makes important strides concerning intellectual property services, currency manipulation monitoring, and a process for dispute resolution. This Phase One deal will help expand market access for Nebraska and bring much needed economic certainty to Nebraska’s manufacturing, agriculture, and energy sectors.

All of these trade deals follow the progress made with Japan last year. The first stage of the U.S.-Japan deal took effect January 1, 2020, reducing tariffs and raising quotas on many U.S. agriculture exports. Japan is our largest customer for all ag exports, beef, pork, eggs, and wheat. In 2018 alone, Nebraska’s exports to Japan totaled nearly $1.2 billion.

Our state’s manufacturers, small businesses, families, and communities are going to benefit from all of these trade agreements. We’ve made great progress in securing more customers for the world-class products that Nebraskans produce. Now, we are setting our sights on the United Kingdom to secure more valuable trading markets in the future.

I want to thank President Trump for keeping his word and following through for our state and America’s heartland. I am proud of the work we have been able to accomplish by working together with this administration and with my colleagues in the United States Senate.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.