Guest Commentary

Visit to China convinces me it's time for a trade deal

Darin LaHood is U.S. representative of Illinois' 18th District | Submitted Photo
By DARIN LaHOOD, U.S. House of Representatives, Illinois 18th District
Posted: Apr. 7, 2019 12:20 am Updated: Apr. 7, 2019 1:22 am

In Central and West-Central Illinois, many of our communities sit along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, which allow our farmers to export their products around the globe and make our state the largest agricultural exporter in the Midwest.

Free trade is vital to the 18th District, but in the past two years, exports moving to market along our rivers have slowed significantly in part because of the ongoing trade dispute with China.

China accounts for 25 percent of all Illinois agriculture exports, making it our largest export partner. With 30 percent of our soybeans and 93 percent of our sorghum going to China, alleviating the burden retaliatory tariffs put on agriculture producers across our state is critical.

As trade negotiations between China and the U.S. continue, I led a bipartisan Congressional delegation trip to China last month to give our producers in the 18th District a seat at the table in ongoing trade discussions.

And I made it abundantly clear, the time for a trade deal is now.

As two of the leading global economies, we have a responsibility to engage in substantive dialogue to enhance areas of trade cooperation. I traveled to Beijing and Hangzhou to raise concerns with high-level Chinese officials and U.S. businesses operating in the country and address issues I have seen affecting our communities here at home.

China continues to expand its influence around the globe, and as it does, it's imperative China abides by international norms and laws.

During my travel in China, I reiterated the need for structural reforms in its trading practices, which is a sticking point in these negotiations and something President Trump has been working to change.

I appreciate these efforts made by the president to go after the Chinese for their unfair trading practices. For far too long, they have been stealing our intellectual property, engaging in forced technology transfers, unfairly targeting U.S. business and subsidizing state-owned Chinese enterprise. Changing this behavior is important and needs to be addressed in any agreement, but we must ensure our agriculture community isn't left behind, and I emphasized this to both the Chinese and U.S. officials.

As negotiations continue, I remain in contact with the administration and specifically with U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer to stress the importance of agriculture in ongoing discussions.

With planting season upon us again, our farmers are putting seed in the ground and are already thinking about how they are going to sell their product come fall. Without an open Chinese market, our farmers will lose significant customers and market share.

Fighting for our communities is something I take pride in, and I was proud to give them a voice in the ongoing trade talks with China on this trip. Reaching an enforceable trade agreement that mitigates the negative effects of tariffs will reinvigorate the agriculture economy in Central and West-Central Illinois.

And there is no better time for this than now.