WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, today spoke on the Senate floor on the importance of bilateral trade deals.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, President Trump is meeting this weekend with Japanese Prime Minister Abe, so I want to take this opportunity to talk about the need to strike new bilateral trade deals.
Bilateral trade agreements with our key allies should be a priority for this Congress and I look forward to working with the Trump administration to ensure these agreements grow American exports, especially for our agriculture and energy producers.
Of our many key allies, I want to highlight three opportunities for the United States to engage in bilateral trade negotiations—Japan, Taiwan and with African nations.
Japan has the third largest economy in the world, but American farmers and ranchers are limited in their abilities to access it. Japan has very high tariffs on things that we would want to export to Japan. At the same time we’re buying their automobiles. We’re buying their products.
We should engage with Japan to develop a bilateral trade agreement with a focus on providing new and commercially meaningful market access for agriculture exports and smoothing the way forward for increased energy exports. In particular, Oklahoma beef producers are chomping at the bit to get more access to the Japanese market.
In addition to agriculture, my state of Oklahoma is an energy state—and Japan is a nation hungry for energy. In fact, Japan accounts for 37 percent of global LNG purchases since 2012. A trade agreement with Japan will streamline the current lengthy and cumbersome process for LNG exports to Japan, ensuring they have a reliable source of energy production and providing jobs to Oklahomans at home.
In addition to Japan, Taiwan is a close friend and ally to the United States and our 9th largest trading partner. As the chair of the Senate Taiwan caucus, I know firsthand how important it is to strengthen the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, which we can do by engaging in direct bilateral trade agreement negotiations.
I believe that a key component of any trade agreement, including Taiwan, is an effort to ensure food safety and animal health regulations are aligned and based on science, to ensure any differences do not become non-tariff trade barriers. This will enable us to directly address the ban Taiwan has against U.S. port because we use racktopamine in our feed to keep our hogs lean. It’s perfectly safe, but Taiwan blocks our pork because it in order to protect their domestic producers.
This is an issue I have already brought up with the Trump administration and with Wilbur Ross who is awaiting confirmation as the next secretary of commerce. That’s why we need bilateral trade agreements with Japan and Taiwan.
But growing our trade relationships with countries in Africa is also very important because, according to the Economist magazine, six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies were in sub-Saharan Africa from 2000–2010.
For too long, sub-Saharan Africa has been ignored as a trading partner by the American government. I have been to Africa more than any other member in the Senate and last year I made my 144th African country visit. I have seen firsthand the vast potential that is there.
Last year, Congress enacted my “Africa Free Trade Initiative Act,” which requires government agencies (USTR, USAID and others) to collaborate on efforts to build trade based capacity in African nations. This is a step in the right direction for America to partner with and secure deeper ties to the fastest growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa.
While some in our government may not deem sub-Saharan African countries “ready” for deeper collaborations on trade with the United States, we need to be forward thinking. Let me tell you what’s going to happen if we don’t. We’ve got this country called China. China is very active in Africa. What you hear in Africa is America will tell you what you need, but China builds what you need. The problem with that is that doesn’t help Africa because China imports their own labor to go to all these things. We spend a lot of money on aid in Africa and we need to focus more of it on building their trade and legal capacities so that they’re ready to do trade agreements with us. Helping their economies grow; that’s what our economic assistance should be all about.
That is the goal of what was enacted in last year’s Africa Free Trade Initiative Act and I will continue my work with the new administration to ensure that African nations are not left behind.
With China’s rising economic might, we need to strengthen America’s current relationships with some of our strongest Asian allies such as Japan and Taiwan with new bilateral trade agreements. This will help counter China’s growing influence in the region.
Oklahoma farmers, ranchers, energy producers and manufacturers need competitive access to international markets to sell Oklahoma-grown and Oklahoma-produced products. New agreements with our allies will generate more economic activity and create jobs in Oklahoma and in all America.