Se­nate calls for role in trade decisions

Non­bind­ing mea­sure is sym­bolic crit­i­cism of Trump’s tar­iffs

Santa Fe New Mexican - - NATION & WORLD - By Erica Werner and Heather Long

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is re­mak­ing the global trade or­der with­out sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal re­sis­tance or penalty, unchecked by a largely com­pli­ant Con­gress and bol­stered by the loy­alty of his sup­port­ers — even those likely to be hurt by his bur­geon­ing global trade war.

The Se­nate on Wednes­day passed a non­bind­ing mea­sure calling for a greater role in over­see­ing Trump’s trade decisions, an im­plicit crit­i­cism of new tar­iffs the pres­i­dent has levied on some of the coun­try’s clos­est al­lies and largest trad­ing part­ners. But the vote has no power to prompt a course change from the White House. And it fol­lows failed at­tempts to ad­vance mea­sures that could have given Con­gress new power to re­strain Trump.

Con­gress’ pas­siv­ity in the face of Trump’s es­ca­lat­ing trade con­flict is one of sev­eral fac­tors that have made it eas­ier for the pres­i­dent to push on. Oth­ers have in­cluded mar­kets that haven’t melted down, busi­ness lead­ers who have done lit­tle be­yond rhetoric to crit­i­cize the trade spat, and Repub­li­cans vot­ers who have stood by their pres­i­dent. In each of these cases, crit­ics of his trade pol­icy had hoped Trump would find rea­son to be dis­suaded.

The trade changes mir­ror Trump’s rapid and sim­i­larly unchecked ef­forts to re­po­si­tion the United States in the global po­lit­i­cal or­der. The parts of the coun­try most af­fected by Trump’s trade war re­main sup­port­ive of the pres­i­dent for now.

Much of the pain has cen­tered on soy­bean farm­ers, whose crops are ex­ported widely and who’ve seen prices nose­dive since the trade war in­ten­si­fied.

Though Trump has been mak­ing trade threats since the start of his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, the open­ing rounds of tar­iffs are only now tak­ing ef­fect.

“He’s very true to what he said he was go­ing to do dur­ing the cam­paign for pres­i­dent,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

For months, Roberts and other Repub­li­cans have been sound­ing the alarm about re­tal­ia­tory tar­iffs on farm coun­try and else­where, and warn­ing that a trade war threat­ens the strong econ­omy that will be the GOP’s calling card in the up­com­ing midterm elec­tions where Democrats will aim to re­take con­trol of Con­gress.

The tar­iffs in place so far — and the re­tal­i­a­tion from other coun­tries — will cost the av­er­age fam­ily about $80 more a year, ac­cord­ing to econ­o­mist Mark Zandi of Moody’s An­a­lyt­ics.

Phil Ram­sey, chair­man of the In­di­ana Soy­bean Al­liance mem­ber­ship and pol­icy com­mit­tee, said he speaks with other farm­ers and ranch­ers in his state.

“Most of us farm­ers are ex­tremely pa­tient,” said Ram­sey, a 58-year-old soy­bean and corn farmer. “We dump hun­dreds of thou­sands of seeds and fer­til­izer into these fields. Then we wait for them to grow. We know it will hap­pen.”

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