Issue Position: Trade
Growing up on a ranch outside of Helena, I quickly learned that the success of farmers, ranchers and other producers depends on more than just the success of their crops. Their success is also tied to the market and the international trade opportunities that are available to them. In order to protect our state's producers and provide them with additional markets to sell their goods, I've worked hard over the years to enact strong and effective trade policies for Montana and the nation.
It's also vital that we prevent U.S. markets from being overrun with unfairly traded goods, such as Canadian softwood lumber. As the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee - which has jurisdiction over international trade - I'm working more effectively than ever to enact trade policies that are right for Montana, right for our farmers and ranchers, and right for our economy.
How I'm Expanding Montana's Trade Opportunities
Ninety-six percent of the world's consumers are outside the United States, and I've been working to introduce them to Montana's products. Over the past two years alone, I've led trade missions with Montanans to Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, China and Cuba. Each trip reveals new opportunities and new markets for Montana business and agriculture. For example, following a visit to Cuba in 2003, Montana producers completed a $10 million deal for Montana products.
I also want the world's consumers and businesses to know about opportunities in Montana, which is why I've hosted foreign delegations in Big Sky country. This year I welcomed a delegation of ambassadors from across Asia and a separate trade mission from China, introducing them to folks in Bozeman, Helena, Great Falls, Billings and Missoula.
Meeting face-to-face with the world's prime ministers and economic ministers helps me make Montana priorities loud and clear. This is why I've built relationships with government leaders around the world - to help get things done for Montana. Before I supported a free trade agreement with Australia, I met one-on-one with Australian Prime Minister John Howard to strike the best deal for my Montanans.
I've been a long-time promoter of fast track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which gives the President trade negotiating authority to spur business, create good-paying jobs, and open foreign markets to Montana and American agriculture products. As then-Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I authored the most progressive fast track bill in our nation's history - one that not only promotes trade but also protects the environment, workers, and existing American trade laws.
Today, I'm pushing the Administration to use TPA to negotiate trade agreements that make sense for Montana. I strongly believe that the United States should pursue trade agreements with major markets - particularly in Asia - where our exporters have the greatest opportunities.
I've also been a leader in the successful efforts to open Chinese markets to U.S. products and to bring China into the World Trade Organization. The improved trade relations lead to a 33 percent reduction in the Chinese beef tariff, a 13 percent drop in the wood tariff and a 300 percent increase in the amount of U.S. wheat that can be exported to China.
Undervalued imports of softwood lumber from Canada continue to threaten the livelihood of Montana's timber workers. I've been working closely with colleagues in the Senate and in the Administration to press Montana interests. It's essential that we secure a common sense, top-notch deal with the Canadian government that truly reflects an open and competitive market in softwood lumber. I've been fighting to level the playing field in the softwood lumber industry for nearly a decade, and you can bet that I will continue to.
In an effort to help Montana's workers and businesses that are adversely affected by international trade, I worked to pass a major expansion of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Act. TAA helps communities that have been severely affected by job losses due to imports. Under the expanded TAA program, the budget has nearly tripled and for the first time workers who lose their jobs will have help in meeting the cost of maintaining healthcare coverage.