WASHINGTON, D.C. — “We’re in a Cold War. We are, whether we like it or not.”
Ohio Republican Brad Wenstrup (R, 2nd Congressional District) used those strong words during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Wednesday that focused on trade and competition between the United States and China.
- “Phase One” deal signed in January
- Wenstrup says China can’t be trusted yet
- Ohio farmers could benefit
Back in mid-January, President Trump signed “Phase One” of a trade deal with the Chinese government, which included a promise that China will buy billions more in U.S. agriculture products over the next two years.
But in an interview right after Wednesday’s hearing, Wenstrup said that his constituents should not trust China just yet.
“I’d say we’re not there yet,” Wenstrup said. “I would always say that. You know, [President Ronald] Reagan was talking about Russia and he said ‘Trust, but verify.’ I’m still at the don’t trust yet, but let’s make sure that we’re verifying. And maybe we’ll build some trust through this. And that, to me, is a good reason to have it in phases.”
The hearing featured testimony from six witnesses, including two farmers, who spoke fairly positively about the impact “Phase One” could have. But they also made clear that there is a serious need for a “Phase Two” of the deal.
Wenstrup said Republicans and Democrats agree.
“Phase One is exactly that: Phase One,” he said. “No one is saying this is the end and we have everything we want, cause we don’t. And Congress recognizes that, both sides of the aisle.”
The “Phase One” deal came at the height of a lengthy trade war between the U.S. and China, leaving farmers on the receiving end of the consequences.
Ohio Farm Bureau President Frank Burkett came to Washington for the signing ceremony last month.
In an interview that day, he said his industry still needs more progress to be made.
“We’ve been strong in the soybean marketplace with China in the past, prior to the trade war, but the dairy market has been a pretty flat market,” Burkett said on January 15. “We provide about five percent of China’s dairy imports right now. Obviously, as a dairy farmer myself and speaking for dairy farmers across the nation, we’d certainly like to see that number increase.”
If China sticks to what it agreed to, Ohio farmers will see some benefit. But this “Phase One” deal does not take away all the tariffs — or taxes — that the U.S. and China are imposing on each other’s products.
So American taxpayers are continuing to foot that bill, while also helping bailout farmers. And all this is happening while Congress waits to see if China is serious about cooperating.
When asked what a realistic timeline for a “Phase Two” to be accomplished on a bipartisan basis is, Wenstrup said, “Well, let’s see if Phase One is going to be implemented appropriately first, because that would affect what we do in Phase Two.”
Wenstrup said it will be important to mix trade with increased diplomacy as a “Phase Two’ deal is worked out.
In Wednesday’s hearing, several witnesses also expressed concern over the Coronavirus having an impact on China’s ability to do business with the U.S.