Members of the Kansas congressional delegation were among the throng packed into the United States House of Representatives chamber Tuesday night for President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address. They liked what they heard, although they advised the administration not to leave rural America behind.
Congressman Roger Marshall and senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts appreciated the upbeat tone of Trump’s 120-minute speech and the calls for bipartisanship and improved security. However, Moran and Roberts both stressed in importance of trade pacts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement to Kansas farmers and communities.
Congressman Marshall attended the SOTU with his wife Laina. “Tonight, I was touched by the people’s stories that the President highlighted,” Marshall said Tuesday evening.
“From the economy to national security the President told American’s stories to stress our country’s accomplishments,” he said. “I am very excited about his agenda that continues to put Americans and our country first. His message tonight to Congress was loud and clear, unity and strength. As a team, we can accomplish so much more. We must work together.”
U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) liked the emphasis on everyday Americans. “Following every State of the Union address, I’ve always zeroed in on, ‘did the president talk about things that matter to rural America, things that matter to Kansans?’ I appreciated the president’s comments about issues that have an impact on the everyday lives of the American people, such as making much-needed updates to our infrastructure, good-paying jobs, caring for our veterans and putting our national security first.”
He was also pleased to hear the president focus on giving veterans choice in their health care decisions. “We must continue working to make certain our heroes have greater access to the care they deserve and hold the VA accountable.”
In addition, he was encouraged to hear the president speak about a number of important national security priorities and reiterate his commitment to keeping Americans safe from terrorists, including by keeping enemy combatants captured on the battlefield detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility (GITMO) in Cuba.
“In just one year, our nation has undergone profound change,” said Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). “The Republican Congress and the Trump administration have lifted the regulatory and tax burdens of individuals and businesses. Our economy is growing, companies are hiring, and Kansas families are finding more money in their pocketbooks.”
He said he hears from many Kansans who like the direction the country is headed and that was not so just one year ago. They like the tax cuts, and businesses are no longer afraid of regulations and are willing to invest in their employees and their operations.
“Simply put, Kansans share the president’s goal of a safe, strong and proud America,” he said.
Roberts also praised the president’s announcement to continue to operate GITMO. Roberts has fought attempts to close the facility and move enemy combatants to the mainland. Fort Leavenworth was one such site under consideration.
“GITMO remains the most appropriate and safest place to house current and future detainees,” Roberts said. “I am glad this President understands that the American people do not want this security risk in their neighborhoods.”
However, Moran wants Trump to refrain from scuttling the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Moran said serves rural America well. “I also remain committed to conveying to the administration that Kansas farmers, ranchers and manufacturers need certainty, rather than the threat of a NAFTA withdrawal. I will urge the president to renegotiate and modernize NAFTA to benefit our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.”
“We must continue this effort to bring prosperity to every corner of the country,” Roberts said. Farmers and ranchers are still struggling with low prices and surpluses. We must aggressively pursue trade policies that increase access to new markets for these producers.
The U.S. is entering our eighth round of NAFTA negotiations. “I am continuing to make the case to the president himself and to the Trump administration that the Kansas economy and rural America benefit significantly from NAFTA. We must preserve this important trading relationship,” he said.
“At the same time, we must move forward on new trade agreements with nations that are taking their business to our competitors. I look forward to working with the president and our negotiators to build upon our current economic growth.”
A recent analysis by the Business Roundtable found if the U.S. withdrew from NAFTA, Kansas would lose 17,410 jobs within one year, Roberts said. Kansas’ exports to Mexico and Canada would drop by $846 million, and Kansas’ economic output would lose more than $955 million.
In 2016 alone, Kansas exported more than $300 million agriculture goods to Canada, Roberts said. Since NAFTA entered into force on January 1, 1994, the value of U.S. agricultural exports to Canada has increased by 265 percent and to Mexico by 289 percent.
From day one of the Trump presidency, Roberts has called for an aggressive trade agenda for U.S. agriculture, personally speaking to a receptive Trump on several occasions.
The North American Free Trade Agreement is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America. The agreement came into force on Jan. 1, 1994. It superseded the Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Canada.