Government

Pence makes trade pitch in Iowa

Vice president calls for passage of deal with Mexico, Canada

Vice President Mike Pence greets Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds as he takes the stage in July 2018 at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids. Pence was back in Iowa on Tuesday to push for congressional passage of the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico.  (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Vice President Mike Pence greets Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds as he takes the stage in July 2018 at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids. Pence was back in Iowa on Tuesday to push for congressional passage of the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

ANKENY — Vice President Mike Pence played cheerleader in Iowa on Tuesday, touting a new international trade deal with Canada and Mexico and urging Congress to pass it this year.

Pence toured and delivered remarks at Accumold, a micromolding company in this Des Moines suburb.

He stressed a need for Congress to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. The deal is a renegotiated but largely similar version of the Bill Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement.

“For too long, the United States has had one-sided trade agreements,” Pence said. “Countries were able to manufacture goods, grow products and ship them into the United States with very few limitations. Nevertheless, we face barriers and tariffs as we try to export to their countries.

“Iowa and America need the Congress of the United States to pass the largest trade deal in American history. The time has come for Congress to pass the USMCA.”

The White House could send the trade deal to Capitol Hill as soon as this week but may not until after Sept. 1, according to national news reports.

Mexico already has approved the new deal. Canada is expected to sign off, according to national news reports.

Congressional Republicans, including Iowa’s U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, have been largely supportive of the new deal.

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Democrats have expressed concerns about the agreement’s impact on labor and the environment, with Democratic congressional leaders discussing their concerns with the administration’s top trade representative.

“Congress needs to approve the USMCA this year,” Pence said. “The truth is the president and our team have done our jobs. It’s time for Congress to do their job.”

Pence urged Iowans to press their congressional delegation to support the trade deal.

He also encouraged Iowans to ask the roughly two dozen Democratic presidential candidates making their way across Iowa to support the deal.

“Tell them that Iowa needs the USMCA, and they need to get behind the USMCA now,” Pence said.

Joe Biden’s campaign issued a statement accusing Pence of “parachuting into the Heartland to drive up support for Trump’s incoherent trade policies.”

The Biden campaign criticized the Trump administration for its efforts to renegotiate multiple international trade deals, in some cases starting trade disputes that have contributed to low corn and soybean prices.

“Iowans have been punched in the gut by President Trump’s reckless trade war that’s wiped away trade relationships Iowa farmers and producers built over generations,” the Biden campaign’s Iowa director Jake Braun said in a statement.

“(Biden) understands that farmers aren’t looking for a government handout from failing trade war policies — they’re looking for leadership that respects the dignity of their work,” Braun said.

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who introduced Pence, described the USMCA as a “strong, balanced and modern” trade agreement.

Accumold CEO Roger Hargens also advocated for its passage, saying it would be good for the entire country. Hargens said the company ships to 23 countries.

• Comments: (563) 383-2492; erin.murphy@lee.net

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