Speed Reads

Trump Trade

Trump's trade policies have left a void that's hurting American agriculture, boosting exports in rival nations

Congress is on its August break and President Trump's at a golf resort in New Jersey, but U.S. businesses are still grappling with the topsy-turvy first 200 days of Trump's presidency, yearning for a little predictability. "Corporate uncertainty about whether the Trump administration will be able to deliver on numerous promises — including tax cuts, health care, a China crackdown, and infrastructure — has forced many companies to put important hiring and investment decisions on hold," The Washington Post reports. But Trump's trade policies are causing perhaps the most unease.

Trump's stalled plan to impose tariffs on steel imports has the U.S. steel industry on tenterhooks, homebuilders are reeling from a spike in lumber prices they attribute to Trump's soft-lumber dispute with Canada, and American agricultural industry is upset that Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. "TPP was fantastic," Kent Bacus at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association tells The New York Times. "When you walk away from it without a meaningful alternative, that causes a lot of alarm in the beef industry." In Japan, for example, U.S. beef now faces 50 percent tariffs, versus 9 percent under TPP.

In a lenghty report in Politico, trade reporter Adam Behsudi looks at how Trump's withdrawal from TPP is roiling American agriculture, focusing on pork production in Wright County, Iowa. "For much of industrial America, the TPP was a suspect deal," he writes, but for the struggling agriculture sector, the trade pact among 12 nations representing 40 percent of the world's economy "was a lifeline." Ominously, he adds, "Trump's decision to withdraw from the pact also cleared the way for rival exporters," and they have wasted no time filling the void.

"A Politico analysis found that the 11 other TPP countries are now involved in a whopping 27 separate trade negotiations with each other, other major trading powers in the region like China, and massive blocs like the EU," Behsudi says, and the remaining TPP countries have made clear they plan to move ahead without Trump's America. Many of the most-affected agriculture counties voted for Trump, expecting him to have their back as they built up for the expected trade boom that won't come now. Trump favors bilateral trade deals, viewing them as more favorable to the U.S., but his international trade team is still be put together and formulating a trade policy. You can read more about Trump's trade moves and agriculture at Politico.