Trump administration officials are telling Sen. Joni Ernst they expect to reach agreement on a trade deal with Mexico “soon, very soon.”
Ernst said she has spoken to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, the U.S. trade representative and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue about the impact of tariffs and a trade war are having on farm commodity prices, and they have expressed optimism that progress is being made.
But “you can’t take optimism to the bank,” Ernst said she told administration officials. “We have to see it in our market prices.”
Even if trade agreements are reached, the Iowa Republican said on a Thursday conference call with Iowa reporters, it won’t be Canada, Mexico and the United States “in one big happy NAFTA package.” Instead, it likely will be bilateral trade agreements.
Resolving trade differences with China will take more time, she said, because there are more differences to address.
“They are bad, bad actors when it comes to trade with United States,” Ernst said.
China isn’t the only bad actor, however, according to Ernst, who said she doesn’t trust Russian President Vladimir Putin “any farther than I can throw him.”
“It doesn’t get much simpler than that,” Ernst said, expressing concern about Trump’s “missed opportunity” to confront Putin in Helsinki about Russian interference in U.S. elections.
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“The president needs to be very clear going forward that America is the most important and powerful nation on the face of this planet, and we won’t be pushed around by Russia,” the Iowa Republican said. “Everything (Russia) will do in the future is only to undermine the United States of America and other democratic countries.”
However, Ernst did not call for bringing the president’s translator before Congress to testify about the two-hour meeting between Trump and Putin.
Presidents, she said, need to have some autonomy in dealing with foreign leaders.
Speaking earlier on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,: Ernst said that if it is necessary to hear from the translator, it should be intelligence agencies, “knowing the context of the conversations,” that should conduct that interview.
She also pushed back against suggestions that majority Republicans have abdicated their responsibility for foreign policy. Ernst argued the GOP-led Congress has been more aggressive providing support for Ukraine and sanctioning Russia than the Obama administration.
Ernst is lobbying to be a member of the House-Senate conference committee that will iron out differences in the farm bill.
However, if the House is not in session in August, that could throw a wrench in completing the package before the current farm bill expires at the end of September.
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