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Fischer hosts trade representative on ag to explain Trump’s strategy; ‘We’ve got to get it right’

September 11, 2018

About 50 Nebraska agricultural stakeholders met privately Monday in Omaha with the Trump administration’s chief negotiator on agricultural trade.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer hosted the visit by the U.S. trade representative’s top agricultural negotiator, Ambassador Gregg Doud, a Kansas native.

Fischer and Doud told reporters that farmers, ranchers and commodity groups wanted to know more about the administration’s long-term strategy on trade.

Both Fischer and Doud acknowledged the price of uncertainty for producers, including soybean farmers, during disputes with several trade partners.

Doud shared what he could about negotiations with Mexico, where the administration announced major progress, and Canada, where work remains.

The United States’ neighbors to the north and south are two of its top four agricultural trading partners, and two key markets for the Midlands.

Fischer said the framework of a deal with Mexico calmed many producers’ nerves. They want a deal with Canada, too, but they want a good one.

Among topics not considered by the North American Free Trade Agreement that need to be: online business and how to handle dairy products.

Said Doud: “We can hopefully reach a conclusion on this soon, but we’re not trying to rush this deal, either. We’ve got to get it right.”

President Donald Trump has a long-term vision for trade that is bilateral, Doud said, or involves deals between two countries instead of large blocs.

Mexico and Canada are an exception because the three countries have worked together so well and for so long that there are opportunities together.

“We have great relationships with those two countries, and we’re going to get that relationship solidified for the next 24-25 years,” Doud said.

But, he said, if no acceptable deal can be struck together, the United States is prepared to negotiate separate deals with Mexico and Canada.

Fischer, whose family ranches near Valentine, said she hopes the countries can reach agreement but said she would support separate deals.

Her Democratic opponent in this fall’s Senate race, Lincoln City Councilwoman Jane Raybould, has criticized Fischer for not standing up to Trump on trade.

Raybould has said she would do what it took to get the president to change his approach, including holding up his judicial and administrative nominations.

On Monday, seven Raybould supporters gathered outside the downtown building to protest Fischer for reasons that included trade policy.

Fischer, who says she has talked trade with the president and his Cabinet, has explained that she’d rather have the president’s ear than his ire.

Opponents of the president, she has said, would be less likely to communicate effectively with administration officials, including trade negotiators.

Trump, Fischer said, is “taking the bull by the horns and working hard at being able to settle some of these trade agreements.”

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