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Pence Visits Iowa To Push Democrats On New Trade Deal

Vice President Mike Pence and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds greet the crowd at a rally on a farm near the Des Moines suburb of Waukee promoting the U.S. Mexico Canada trade agreement.
Grant Gerlock
Vice President Mike Pence and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds greet the crowd at a rally on a farm near the Des Moines suburb of Waukee promoting the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

Vice President Mike Pence says Congress should act quickly to ratify a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada by the end of the year. Pence travelled to Iowa Wednesday to pressure Democratic lawmakers to hurry the trade deal through the House.

Pence spoke at a rally on a farm outside of Waukee, a Des Moines suburb. With towering steel grain bins and tall, green tractors as a backdrop, Pence said the USMCA would build on the export relationships Iowa farmers have developed through NAFTA.

“This great state is the nation’s second largest agricultural exporting state,” Pence said. “You produce more than $10.3 billion in goods every year. Under the USMCA we know these numbers are only going to grow.”

Trump signed the agreement last November but it still must be ratified by Congress. Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives have said they’re trying to negotiate stronger labor standards in the USMCA, but Pence pushed for the process to move forward.

“It’s time for the Democrats in Congress to do their job, put politics aside and pass the USMCA this year,” he said, specifically mentioning Iowa’s three Democratic U.S. Representatives — Cindy Axne, Abby Finkenauer and Dave Loebsack. None of them have voiced opposition to the USMCA. Axne has said Democrats have been working toward a vote since receiving a summary of the agreement from the White House in July.

Pence said the USMCA would especially benefit Iowa corn, pork and dairy farmers. But some producers are concerned about the greater toll of the administration’s ongoing trade disputes, with China in particular. The U.S. normally exports a large surplus of farm products, but the Department of Agriculture reports 2019 is on pace to show a negative ag trade balance.

“For the first time in 40 years, the most productive farmers in the world might be looking at a trade deficit,” Jasper County farmer Tim Gannon said on a call organized by Iowa Democrats to counter Pence’s visit to the state. “Even as other parts of the economy may run trade deficits, agriculture has always led with trade surpluses, including in the last 10 years some of the largest surpluses we’ve ever had.”

Pence said a new trade deal with Japan will grow exports of beef and wheat. He also said progress is expected on trade with China. Negotiators are planning to resume talks this week in Washington, D.C.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa