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Gardner’s sure got no beef with the end of China’s U.S. beef ban

Author: Dan Njegomir - June 13, 2017 - Updated: June 14, 2017

iStock photo / johnrandallalves

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner issued a statement today welcoming the end of a 13-year Chinese ban on U.S. beef imports — reminding voters he’s all in for international trade that benefits his home state even if his fellow Republican in the White House is a trade hawk:

“As Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity, I am continuing to urge the Trump Administration to explore new trade opportunities for America’s agriculture community in Asia, and this is an important step forward … Colorado’s farmers and ranchers will see positive economic gains from this decision, and everyone involved with finally getting the ban removed should be applauded.”

Gardner’s office also noted in the news release:

Gardner has long been a supporter of opening up new trade opportunities for Colorado’s farmers and ranchers. He recently spoke on the Senate floor about the agriculture crisis in America and explained how an increase in trade will benefit Colorado’s agriculture community.

Trump administration Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the agreement with China this week reopening that country to America’s favorite red meat; the ban was imposed by the Chinese in 2003 following a case of mad cow disease.

While everyone welcomes a new market for selling American goods abroad, free trade of course is a two-way street. Its supporters, like Gardner, generally advocate keeping U.S. markets open, too, so U.S. consumers can benefit from cheaper goods. Yes, even Chinese goods. That’s probably where Gardner and the administration don’t always see eye to eye.

Last month, Gardner voted against confirming Trump’s pick for U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, who is a longtime critic of free trade. Gardner at the time contended Lighthizer’s policies, “could hurt Colorado’s farmers and ranchers.” Gardner’s reference today to his own efforts “to urge the Trump Administration to explore new trade opportunities” seems tacitly to acknowledge his differences with the White House.

The administration has been more antagonist than enthusiast on free trade in general, and Perdue and other administration officials chalked up this week’s breakthrough to the Trump team’s get-tough, “fair trade” stance. That was Lighthizer’s spin:

“The President’s firm commitment to fair trade that benefits the United States has made this new U.S. beef export opportunity possible.  I encourage China and all countries to base their requirements on international standards and science.  America’s ranchers are the best producers of beef in the global economy, and they can compete and succeed wherever there is a level playing field.”

At any rate, Colorado’s cattle ranchers should be beaming. The U.S. is the world’s largest beef producer, and Colorado ranks 10th among the states in total number of beef cattle.

According to a spokesman with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the top four current markets for Colorado beef exports are Canada, Mexico, Japan and South Korea. In 2016, he said, Colorado totaled $423 million in beef exports outside the U.S.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.