Florida’s state and congressional Democratic leaders are ripping President Donald Trump’s new North American trade agreement and Chinese tariffs.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Central Florida Congressman Darren Soto took part in a press call ahead of the next round of Democratic presidential debates this week. Not surprisingly, they used it to blast President Trump’s United States Mexico Canada Agreement, or USMCA – a revamp of NAFTA. Fried says Florida’s farmers have long been feeling the effects.
“For 25 years, NAFTA has been a disaster, allowing Mexico to dump cheap, illegally-subsidized fruits and vegetables that threaten the very existence of Florida’s seasonal producers and farmers,” Fried said, adding the bugs in NAFTA won’t be worked out with the USMCA. The lone Democratic member of the Florida cabinet sees the new agreement as a continuation of what she feels is harmful policy.
“The USMCA will only worsen NAFTA’s failures – lacking any kind of protection for those produce farmers. If it moves forward, Florida’s farmers could lose 8,000 farm jobs and suffer $389 million in economic losses,” Fried told reporters.
Those losses are due in part to what Fried says is a lack of seasonal exemptions, which would prevent Mexico from edging out domestic growers with cheaper produce during certain crops’ growing seasons. She called on Republicans in Congress to not ratify the USMCA.
But the Trump administration insists the new trade agreement will have the opposite effect. Vice President Mike Pence touted the USMCA as a boost to Florida’s economy during a Jacksonville stop in May.
“We’ve negotiated for Mexico and Canada to lift their retaliatory tariffs on American pork, cheese and orange juice. Under this agreement, Florida’s farmers are going to win like never before,” Pence told a crowd at Jacksonville’s Schultz Center.
As U.S. negotiators are in China this week in hopes of calming what many call a trade war, Democratic Congressman Darren Soto called Trump’s strategy of imposing tariffs on goods exported to China “aimless.”
“Citrus, whether it’s through orange juice or otherwise – we export it to Asia, to Europe, and to other countries beyond,” Soto said. “And this is raising our prices and making us less competitive.”
Soto insists tariffs effectively punish the consumer.
“It’s pretty clear to everyone other than President Trump that tariffs are taxes to the American people,” Soto said.
According to Fried, some of the state’s key agricultural exports to the country have taken a hit as a result.
“We’re actively trying to help Florida citrus make a comeback from citrus greening diseases,” Fried said. “But with China’s 25 percent retaliatory tariffs, our fruit juice exports to China are down 65 percent this year.”
Fried teased this week’s Democratic debates, to be held Tuesday and Wednesday, as a venue for 2020 candidates to propose competing economic strategies to Trump’s.