Japan Opens Doors to American-Made Ethanol, North Dakota Democrats Hardest Hit


UND's and Omaha's in Saturday's NCHC playoff game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Yesterday I wrote a post wondering if North Dakota Democrats – U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp and U.S. House candidate Mac Schneider, in particular – weren’t overplaying their hands in their attempts to fan the flames of rural anxiety over Trump’s trade standoff with China. The Democrats have invested so much political capital into promoting hysteria over trade that they almost seem to be rooting for a trade war they can leverage into election year victories.

But what if Trump’s efforts on trade result in better deals for America?

Yesterday the New York Times reported that China was beginning to make overtures to the Trump administration on U.S. auto exports into their country. Today we learn that Japan is in the process of opening its market to American corn-based ethanol.

Congressman Kevin Cramer credited the Trump administration with the development in a press release this morning. ““I’m pleased Japan has opened its market to America’s competitive corn-based ethanol,” he is quoted as saying. “Traditional export markets in Brazil and Canada know the value, but increasingly I think others including India, Mexico, South Korea, and now Japan will see the advantage of this high-octane fuel and provide growth opportunities for our farmers and ethanol producers. I commend the Trump Administration and the progress made to strengthen our exports.”

UPDATE: Senator John Hoeven also issued a statement on Japan opening up to U.S. ethanol. ““This decision by Japan to open its markets to corn-based ethanol produced in the U.S. is a win for our producers,” Hoeven said. “Access to more markets means greater demand for high-quality U.S. goods and stronger prices. Further, this move is a timely one, as today, a summit is taking place with the U.S. and Japan to discuss trade opportunities between our two nations. We will continue to work to ensure better deals for American industry, especially agriculture and energy, promoting fair and free trade in markets around the globe.”

“The U.S. Grains Council, the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy said in a joint news release on Tuesday that the action could open the door for nearly 96 million gallons of corn ethanol exports to Japan,” the Ethanol Blog reports.

To put that number into context, the United States produced more than 14.8 billion gallons of ethanol in 2015 (North Dakota produced about 440 million gallons of that). So it’s not a huge market – if the 96 million gallon estimate is correct that’s less than 1 percent of our nation’s annual ethanol production based on the EIA’s 2015 numbers – but more important is that Japan made a move toward opening their markets. Not closing them.

I have my problems with ethanol and government policies promoting it, but those issues aside it’s generally a good thing to see foreign markets more open to U.S. goods and services.

The narrative Democrats want us to buy is that Trump’s quintessentially Trumpian approach to these negotiations will set off a trade war which will be devastating for the U.S. economy.

So far it seems the opposite is true.