Senator Lankford Speaks on the Senate Floor about the Tragic Aftermath of the Indonesian Earthquake and about the Positive Impact of the USMCA on Oklahoma Agriculture
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Lankford (R-OK) today provided remarks on the Senate floor in support of the people of Indonesia after the horrific earthquake and subsequent tsunami have devastated lives and property. Lankford also addressed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on trade, which is the result of the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and how the new agreement will impact Oklahoma farmers and ranchers.
Lankford has encouraged the Administration to resolve trade negotiations as quickly as possible in order to restore certainty and pursue fair trade worldwide. In July, Lankford questioned US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer during an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing after meeting with President Trump on trade the day before. Lankford also released an episode from his podcast called “The Breakdown with James Lankford” focused on trade issues in Oklahoma. In April, Lankford spoke on the Senate floor on free and fair trade and the importance that international trade plays in supporting Oklahoma jobs.
Topic #1 – Indonesia: “There’s a lot going on in the world right now and a lot obviously in Washington, DC, but I do want to take a quick global look at some of the things happening in trade. I want to begin by what’s happening in Indonesia. It’s a part of the world a lot of Americans don’t travel to too often. It’s not in the typical sphere that people interact with. Right now, the people of Indonesia are digging out from a massive earthquake and tsunami that followed it. The latest death toll numbers are over 1,400 people that they have identified right now, and many of the most remote villages that were deeply affected by the earthquake have not even been reached yet. We don’t know how high this death toll is going to climb. Our state department is already engaged, as we should to be able to help them in any way that we can. We’ve already released initial aid relief to them. We’re offering our help in any way that we possibly can to assist the people there as they try to make sense how to be able to go forward on relief efforts. There are private organizations like World Relief or Baptist Global response that are already on the ground that are engaging being able to help. There are Americans helping the people of Indonesia, as rightfully we should. We should keep our focus on what is happening around the world and where we can help. We should help where we can engage. So we continue to be able to pray for and be able to reach out in practical ways and be able to help the people of Indonesia. And we will try to keep people updated on that in the days ahead and how people can stay engaged.”
Topic #2 – Trade: “The President made an announcement earlier this week dealing with international activities closer with neighbors than Indonesia, with Canada and Mexico. This is an issue that has been discussed for quite a while. The President brought it up in his campaign, and immediately went to work on trying to be able to reshape the NAFTA agreement. What is interesting is different states had different opinions about NAFTA, but in Oklahoma, our number one and number two largest export locations are Canada and Mexico. Our manufactured products, our agricultural products are moving northern south often to our close neighbors and NAFTA has been a win for us in building our own economy and leaching out with — and reaching out in export products.
“When the President said he wanted to revisit NAFTA, our team quickly engaged with the President, with his team, to be able to talk about what can we do to be able to help. It was one of the issues I brought up with Robert Lighthizer before he was even appointed to the position he is in at United States Trade Representative. We talked about NAFTA. We talked about the importance of trade agreements. I met with Greg Dobb, the Chief Agricultural Negotiator multiple times through the process on this. I met with the White House to be able to talk numerous times. I met with the President, I met with the Vice President. I meet with different individuals with their team to be able to talk about how important trade is and how essential it is to get a good deal.
“Initially the focus was on ‘We were going to real solve it with Mexico and leave Canada out.’ My conversations with the White House are, ‘I understand the pressure with Canada, but Oklahoma’s number-one trading partner is Canada. I would encourage you to finish that out as well it is exceptionally important to us. There is a perception those who border with Canada care about trade with Canada; that is not so. We continue to interact with them in meetings, letters, phone calls, and I was pleased to be able to see a trade agreement that actually came forward this week. There’s a lot still to be resolved, and we’re still going through the details on it. The important thing to be able to come through is locking in some of the things we already have with trade agreements. When I speak to the people in my state about trade, they will often say we want to resolve the trade issues with our friends, but the main focus we want to have is reach out to make new friends internationally. Let’s resolve the markets that we already have and make sure that’s stable, but let’s try to find new places to be able to sell our products and establish new trade agreements that makes sense for our economy. It makes sense, quite frankly, worldwide for us. I was pleased to be able to see the Administration step forward and say we’re resolving the issues with Canada and Mexico and resolving some of the unanswered issues.
“When you go back to the 1990’s, we weren’t talking a lot about e-commerce in the 1990s when the NAFTA deal was first done. It was time for an update on that. It was time, quite frankly, for a state like ours, that deals with a lot of wheat, that Canada finally acknowledges the wheat that we grow is quality wheat. Canada had a bad habit of every time we sent quality wheat to them, they would downgrade it as soon as it came across the border so American wheat was never the same quality as Canadian wheat. Well, sorry to say, our wheat is that quality, and so that’s finally being resolved back and forth with Canada and the United States. Simple things like what is de minimis products to be able to carry across the border with Canada and Mexico might not seem like a big deal, but allowing an individual to be able to travel across the border from the United States to Canada or back and forth with a small amount of goods that they purchased is significant to someone that’s just going to be a normal consumer crossing back and forth across the border. To finally get that resolved, that’s been a problem for a long time. And the dairy issues famously have been a problem to be able to resolve with Canada, to be able to open up their market a little bit more to dairy products is very significant for us. This preserves and expands access for US Poultry and egg producers. It makes updates to the areas where we need modern updates. So, I’m pleased to be able to see that we’re finally moving in an area to be able to resolve this.
“There are some areas that I think still are unresolved. This issue about an expiration date, I’ve spoken with the Administration multiple times about. I think trade agreements can be revisited any moment. We don’t have to set an expiration date on it. Clearly they can be revisited because we’re revisiting NAFTA right now to be able to renegotiate the deal. I don’t think we need to set some future date in the future and say this whole thing goes away. I think that sets an arbitrary deadline on a trade deal that if it’s working, we can renegotiate the areas that need to be tweaked but leave it in place. It creates greater stability. I look forward to having the debate about some of those issues and try to resolve some of those things. But in the meantime, I do want to thank the Trump administration for doing the work that was required, taking on the trade issue that needed to be taken on for quite a while and trying to actually get this resolved. Now that NAFTA is wrapping up and we look forward again to seeing the details in the days ahead and coming before Congress for a vote as we see all the details and all the American people are able to be able to see this final negotiation. I look forward to seeing the next year.
“The next year are the new markets. We have trade issues, for instance, with Japan and United States beef. The whole world wants to have our beef and they know the quality of the beef that we put out. But Japan has arbitrary tariffs that well exceed the norms against American beef coming to Japan, that other countries don’t face, that needs to be resolved with Japan. We need to continue to expand our exports into multiple other countries. The Trans Pacific Partnership that was discussed in the previous Administration that this Administration set aside and said it’s time to take on the bilateral negotiations, rather than multilateral negotiations, I understand that, but It’s time to take on those bilateral negotiations. It’s time to actually deal with the trade agreements and expand into new markets and new places. The American economy is thriving right now. We’re continuing to create greater efficiencies, greater products. The world continues to want our products and the more we can negotiate those deals and find places to send them and people that want to buy them. Let’s do it.
“I would add one more thing in this. We have a unique relationship with England. As the UK breaks away in their Brexit vote from the EU and the trading block, they’re working on negotiating a deal with Europe. We should be aggressively negotiating a deal with the UK to form a trading relationship. There’s no reason the United States and the UK shouldn’t be the first major trade negotiation that they take on and that we solve. We have a lot of products back and forth. Aerospace being one of those prime areas where the UK and the United States should be able to cooperate extensively in aerospace. Let’s get that trade agreement going. Let’s make sure that we can get that locked in because in the days ahead, we’ll want to continue to have our close ally with the UK including a close free trade agreement between us to make sure that we can knock down tariffs. This is a moment when the UK can walk away from Europe’s high tariffs and high barriers to trade and say let’s establish a closer relationship with our close ally with the UK There’s a lot to be done in trade. There’s a lot of new places to go. And there are some areas that I would tweak and do different, even in this new deal on NAFTA with the United States, Mexico, and Canada agreement. But I’m proud of the administration that they’ve actually taken this on to be able to solve it. As I’ve jokingly said, they’ve had the ability to be able to break things. Now it’s time to be able to prove they can fix some things. This is one they’re fixing. And it will be good for the American economy in the days ahead to be able to see if it’s done.”
For more information about Senator Lankford, visit: www.lankford.senate.gov