North Dakota Democrats are trying to make hay on trade, hoping to leverage some of the pain farmers may be feeling as a result of the trade war with China into political progress.
That talking point didn’t get a lot of traction during the 2018 election cycle, but it’s hard to blame them for keeping at it. As the trade war drags on there are real economic impacts for North Dakotans and Americans generally.
But here’s the thing: If Democrats are so concerned about trade, why are they only talking about China?
The Trump administration has hammered out a strong trade deal with Canada and Mexico called the USMCA. It has bipartisan support. North Dakota’s all-Republican federal delegation – Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer along with Congressman Kelly Armstrong – support ratification of the deal. Former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, is literally collecting a pay check to promote the deal.
Yet the Democrat-controlled House is a hold up. The Trump administration hasn’t submitted the treaty to Congress yet because, once they do so, it starts the clock counting on a timeline toward a sixty-day deadline.
Our mercurial President is flirting with the idea of submitting the trade agreement to start that clock ticking, but mostly everyone wants to know where Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her caucus are before the clock starts ticking.
Which makes it curious that North Dakota’s Democratic party isn’t really talking about this.
In 2018 Canada, not China, was the biggest market for North Dakota’s exports at $5.8 billion worth of goods and services. Coming in a distant second is Mexico at $231 million.
That North Dakota’s Democrats would be focused on the trade war with China, while relatively silent on ratification of the USMCA which would represent a strong new trade agreement with North Dakota’s two largest export markets, makes it seem like their talking points are driven more by considerations which are political more than economic.