DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed concern Monday that President Donald Trump’s tough talk on imposing trade tariffs could stunt Iowa’s economic growth potential if other countries take retaliatory measures against U.S. farm exports.
“Our famers are the first target and we know that’s where the unintended consequences will fall is on our farmers and on our manufacturers,” Reynolds told her weekly news conference, warning that the unintended consequences for Iowa and other agricultural states could be “devastating.”
Reynolds, a Republican facing her first election as governor with a primary less than three months away, also hoped the president would soften his stance on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) given that Canada and Mexico are Iowa’s top two trade partners respectively.
“I’ve said ‘I’m OK with modernizing NAFTA,’ it’s a 25-plus-year-old trade agreement so that make sense, but I’m not in favor of withdrawing,” she told reporters. “We see the economy growing and I want to be very careful about having an impact on that. We’re in favor of modernizing NAFTA, but are not in favor of pulling out.”
Reynolds’ comment came on a day when Trump insisted he's "not backing down" on his plan to impose stiff tariffs on imported steel and aluminum despite anxious warnings from Republicans concerned about a possible trade war.
Trump said Canada and Mexico would not get any relief from his plan to place the tariffs on the imports but he suggested he might be willing to exempt the two longstanding allies if they agreed to better NAFTA terms – noting in a tweet that NAFTA “has been a bad deal for U.S.A. Massive relocation of companies & jobs."
The Iowa governor said the president’s remarks are adding to the volatility for Iowa economic sectors already struggling with the price of farm commodities hovering below the cost of production.
“It’s about finding balance and it’s about eliminating the uncertainty that comments like that have on, especially agricultural states like Iowa,” Reynolds said. “I’m OK with free and fair (trade) and it’s a balance moving forward but that will have unintended consequences. They’re already talking about the impact on soybeans in China and how they will retaliate, so that’s a tremendous concern of mine and something we continue to work with” Iowa’s congressional delegates and federal liaison to stabilize the trade discussion.
The governor indicated that she spoke with the president, Vice President Mike Pence and Trump administration officials when she attended the winter meeting of the National Governors Association last week in Washington, D.C., and she hoped to have a follow-up visit with the vice president Tuesday while he is in Council Bluffs.