Friday, April 13, 2018

Trump considers buying crops, rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership to help farmers in trade war; skeptics abound

President Trump is considering options to help American farmers hurt by the trade war with China, including harnessing the Commodity Credit Corporation and trying to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he abandoned soon after he became president.

The CCC is an early New Deal program created in 1933 to help farmers hurt in the Depression. Part of the Department of Agriculture, the CCC can borrow up to $30 billion from the Treasury to deploy in numerous ways, including buying crops to keep prices stable. The White House and USDA wouldn't say how they might use the CCC right now, saying they want to keep their ideas secret to avoid tipping off the Chinese, Damian Paletta reports for The Washington Post.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, urged caution in using the CCC, saying that he's seen it misused before. "It’s not that I’m diametrically opposed to it to the degree that I’d say no," he told Paletta. "I’m just saying I don’t know how we implement this, I don’t know what kind of cockamamie scheme that we could come up with that would be fair, that would be at least somewhat responsible."

Yesterday Trump also floated the idea of rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, though he famously opposed it as a candidate and withdrew the U.S. from the pact in his first week in office. "Trump had told Republican senators earlier in the day that he had asked ... Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow to re-open negotiations," David Chance and Tetsushi Kajimoto report for Reuters.

Trump said the U.S. would only rejoin the pact if more favorable terms were negotiated. Though President Obama championed the TPP since 2008, in 2016 his administration stopped trying to get it passed because of Congressional opposition. Without the U.S.'s input, the other 11 countries went forward with negotiations and eliminated parts on investment, government procurement and intellectual property that were key demands for the U.S.

Rejoining the pact will not be easy. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters recently that "If the United States, it turns out, do genuinely wish to rejoin, that triggers a whole new process," Chance and Kajimoto report. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it would be "great" to have the U.S. back in the TPP, but said they're "not counting on it."

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