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GOP Iowa Rep. Young Argues Tariffs Will Harm Overall Economy

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Some businesses across the country are coming to terms with the fallout from trade tensions between the United States and China. This week, China responded to President Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods by proposing tariffs of their own on about 50 billion dollars' worth of U.S. exports to China, including soybeans, aircraft, automobiles. Now, there is a chance that these tariffs will not go into effect if the two countries reach a settlement. But for states that rely heavily on exporting to China, the impact can be felt already. Take Iowa with its soybean, grain and pork producers. Those farmers have already seen prices drop on the commodity markets. Republican Congressman David Young represents a huge swath of southwestern Iowa, and he joins me this morning.

Good morning, Congressman.

DAVID YOUNG: Hey, good morning from Van Meter, Iowa.

GREENE: Well, it's nice to be hearing from you there. Let me just ask you - you have been very supportive of this president's economic agenda. What do you think of these tariffs?

YOUNG: Well, I think he was on the right track in terms of regulatory relief and common-sense regulatory reform and tax relief, but tariffs, to me and to a lot of people around here in the heartland - tariffs are taxes. And taxes are going to hurt consumers, going to hurt employers. You know, just the tariff on steel and aluminum - that's going to hurt - right away, that's going to hurt farmers. There's not 10 minutes to go by that a farmer doesn't touch steel.

GREENE: Let me just play a little tape for you, if you don't mind. We spoke to White House trade adviser Peter Navarro about these tariffs, and this is a bit of what he told us.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

PETER NAVARRO: We buy five times more goods than they buy from us. They have a lot more to lose in any escalation of this matter. And our trade deficit every year - let's be clear. Our trade deficit in goods with China is about a billion dollars a day.

GREENE: So, Congressman, the White House take is that China is going to be harmed more by this. Do you dispute that?

YOUNG: Well, in the immediate term, I think agriculture and farmers get hit hardest, and they get hit first.

GREENE: In the United States.

YOUNG: In the United States. Yeah, the retaliation always comes against agriculture, no matter what the first issue is that is brought about, whether it's steel and aluminum or intellectual property. It's just unfair that every time, it seems like agriculture gets hit the hardest. And let me tell you, agriculture income is down four years in a row here in Iowa. And it's a gut punch every year, but farmers are producers. We've got the grit. We make it work. But this was just another punch.

GREENE: Do you see an argument that, you know, if the United States is going to level the playing field with China in - at least in the short term, there might have to be sacrifices and that might be the case for farmers right now? Do you buy that argument from the administration - not that they would say they want farmers to be in pain - but that overall, this agenda, in terms of leveling the playing field with China, is important?

YOUNG: Well, it - you know, whenever you're doing a trade agreement or a trade deal, there's always going to be some kind of concessions. But can we first just maybe sit down at the table and have some discussions rather than just right away just start going about it with tariffs? I respect the president and what he's trying to do - trying to level the playing field, trying to get those trade deficits down - but it always comes at the cost of agriculture. And can we start just by sitting down at the table?

GREENE: Speaking of sitting down at the table, I mean, Republican leaders seem to be siding with the president here. What leverage do you and farm-state Republicans have to get the attention of the president and his team and actually get to the table?

YOUNG: Well, you know, I don't - you know, Republican leaders, I don't know what that means. But I tell you, the people that I listen to are the people right here in the county, in the 16 counties here in the 3rd District. I will tell you this, that whoever is at the table, I would like to see Secretary Perdue at the table as well, who really understands agriculture and who knows that first in line are farmers and producers who always get hit first with retaliation. Now, I hope these tariffs still go to - into effect. Maybe there is some breakthrough. That's the optimist in me. That's the optimist that you get in Iowans. We'll see what happens, but time is creeping up.

GREENE: Congressman, President Trump told the American Farm Bureau back in January that he works every day to deliver for the American farmer. Are you doubting that right now?

YOUNG: I think the president has the best interests in America in mind when it comes to the economy and making sure that farmers and anybody else has great opportunity out there. It's just so unfortunate that when it comes to the trade issue, that - and it's not fair that whatever the issue is first - steel, intellectual property, aluminum - that those foreign countries - China - they know where to hit us first, and that's with agriculture. But we're strong. We're going to make it through this. I'm optimistic. It's just a matter of time.

GREENE: David Young is a Republican congressman from the state of Iowa. Congressman, thanks for your time this morning.

YOUNG: You bet. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.