Trump fails import-export math

For someone who graduated from a top business school, Donald Trump doesn’t seem to understand basic math.

In a Monday morning tweet, Trump said Canada, Mexico and China are treating American farmers “unfairly.”

He claimed that U.S. farmers have not been doing well for the last 15 years because countries, like Canada, put up barriers to U.S. agricultural products.

“Massive trade deficits no longer,” Trump said. “By the time I finish trade talks that will change.”

The import/export numbers and the facts don’t back up Trump’s tweet.

Figures from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative clearly show that America has a trade surplus with Canada, when it comes to agriculture and agri-food:

• In 2017 America exported US $24 billion worth of agricultural products to Canada. The leading categories were fresh vegetables ($1.9 billion) and prepared food ($1.9 billion)

• In 2017 Canada exported $22 billion worth of ag products to America. Leading categories were snack foods ($4.2 billion) and red meats ($2.3 billion)

Trump’s tweet comes only a few days after the U.S. imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

Canada and other nations immediately fired back, announcing tariffs on a list of U.S. goods, including agricultural products.

The Trump administration said the tariffs were necessary, for Mexico and Canada, because negotiations for a new North American Free Trade Agreement were bogged down.

Trump’s comment on Canada, Mexico and how the countries are unfair to American farmers, doesn’t mesh well with the position of actual American farmers.

Almost all U.S. farm groups say American producers have benefitted, immensely, from trade with Canada and Mexico.

In a document posted online, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) said U.S. food and agriculture exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled, thanks to NAFTA.

Exports grew from $11 billion in 1993 to $43 billion in 2016.

Farmers for Free Trade, a lobby group supported by pork producers, wheat growers and corn farmers, said Trump’s position on agricultural trade is absurd.

“We have a surplus in agriculture trade. So by the president’s own metric, U.S. agriculture trade has been winning,” said Angela Hofmann, deputy director of Farmers for Free Trade.

“The only thing that could put that at risk are harmful tariffs that will tax the very exports our farmers depend on for their livelihoods.”

A spokesperson for the NCGA told the Western Producer that U.S. agricultural groups are puzzled by Trump’s stance on agricultural trade.

Most of the major farm organizations in America have told the Trump administration that NAFTA has helped U.S farmers, because exports of corn, beef, pork, soy, apples and prepared foods have boomed.

Still, Trump continues to rely on other sources of information.

Some person or some group must have Trump’s ear, but ag groups with offices in Washington can’t identify who is influencing the President.

However, they do know who Trump is ignoring – commodity groups that represent the majority of U.S. farmers.

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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Comments

  • A. Scott

    Interesting that you failed to mention wheat … and how Canada’s protectionist policies essentially extort US farmers into selling even best quality grain at seed quality prices …