WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, yesterday voted to support continued normal trading relations with China, citing the importance of China trade to America's farmers and ranchers.
Yesterday, by a vote of 166 — 264, the House of Representatives soundly rejected a resolution (H.J. Res. 121) revoking normal trade relations with China. This trade status, which virtually all countries enjoy, simply allows a country's exports to enter the U.S. at the same tariff rates applied to other trading partners.
"The Chinese market is vital to American farmers and ranchers. Since 1994, China has ranked among the top ten importers of U.S. farm products. Farmers and ranchers would have lost this $2 billion market if China's trading status was revoked, not to mention the enormous potential for a market with 20% of the world's population," Smith said.
"We shouldn't punish America's farmers and ranchers for the wrongdoing of the Chinese government. It's not fair to Americans, and it won't work. Trade with China can only strengthen development of private enterprise and bring China more fully into world trade membership," Smith said.
"Only a week ago, we passed sanctions reform legislation that, hopefully will be the first step in a thorough review and revision of our policy on sanctions. Our farmers and ranchers cannot continue to bear the burden of ineffective unilateral sanctions, which serve only to punish our own producers," said Ranking Committee Member Charlie Stenholm. "With a population of 1.2 billion people, China is too important a market to ignore. This week's House vote to maintain normal trade relations will ultimately prove to be very important to U.S. agriculture."
In June, Smith and a bipartisan group of farm state legislators outlined his "square deal," for American farmers and ranchers, a four-point plan providing a future for American Agriculture. Smith's square deal includes implementation of Fast Track negotiating authority, lifting of agricultural sanctions against Pakistan and India, funding for the International Monetary Fund, and approval of normal trade status for China. On Tuesday, July 14th the agricultural embargo against Pakistan and India was lifted allowing for the sale of 300,000 tons of U.S. wheat to Pakistan. Yesterday's vote on Chinese trade marks the halfway point in Smith's plan.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District — which covers most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon — in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stenholm represents Texas' Seventeenth Congressional District, a sprawling agricultural district in west central Texas.