Senator Ben Sasse said that President Donald Trump was interested in rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership to put more pressure on China by opening up more Asian markets to agricultural exports from the United States.
“He looked right at Larry Kudlow and said, ‘Larry go get it done,’” Sasse said, recounting the meeting to White House reporters.
Sasse and other members of Congress and governors from agriculture states met with the president at the White House to express concerns about higher China tariffs hurting American farmers.
Senators Deb Fisher (R-NE), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and John Hoeven (R-ND), who also attended the meeting, confirmed Trump’s interest in rejoining TPP.
Roberts said he was “very impressed” that Trump instructed both Kudlow and Robert Lighthizer to explore the idea of rejoining TPP.
“That would certainly be good news all throughout farm country,” Roberts said.
Fischer said that the president also discussed the importance of ethanol and the renegotiation of NAFTA with the president.
Hoeven said the meeting with Trump was a “very positive” meeting about opening up more markets to “free” and “fair” trade.
The senators did not have a timeline for the president but appeared confident that the president heard their concerns.
“Clearly it’s a deliberative process, and the president is a guy who likes to blue-sky a lot and entertain a lot of different ideas, but he multiple times reaffirmed the point that TPP might be easier for us to join now once the TPP 11 is aligned and that we might be the 12th party to those negotiations,” Sasse said.
TPP-11 is the group of Pacific nations who signed a renewed free trade pact after Trump pulled the United States out of TPP.
Sasse, who recently returned from a trip to China, admitted that they cheated on trade and stole intellectual property but suggested that the best way to compete with them was to lead Pacific nations on global trade.
He criticized the president’s strategy of proposing higher tariffs on China to get them to play fair on trade.
“Tariffs first and U.S. alone action that focuses just on tariffs and steel … that’s not going to solve the real problems we have,” he said.
He criticized the idea of using government welfare payments to farmers to help them survive threatening tariffs from China.
“They don’t want welfare payments, they want to feed the world,” Sasse said.