As a candidate, President Donald Trump's statements on United States trade policies could be summarized in three words: Put America first.
U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, sent a letter today to the president translating that general goal into an approach to pursuing trade reforms that would support Maine industries and interests.
In his letter to Trump, King singled out the impact that globalization and past trade deals have had on Maine's paper industry.
"Traditional industries across Maine have felt acutely the negative effects of unfair free trade agreements as well as expanded international trade with increasingly competitive exporters like China," King wrote. "Since my 2011 column expressing skepticism of the benefits of trade liberalization, six paper mills have closed in Maine in addition to further decline in forest products manufacturing, an industry that has brought prosperity to rural Maine for generations. The mill closures and associated job losses have been nothing short of devastating to rural communities across Maine … it is an economic crisis of unprecedented magnitude. While the crisis can be attributed, in part, to the rise in technological advances within the industry; the slow recovery from the recession; and the global decline in demand for printing and coated paper, some of the industry's challenges must also be attributed to the effects of globalization and past trade deals.
King encouraged President Trump and his administration, as they proceed with reevaluating global trade policies, to consider three priorities that "could bolster ongoing efforts to assist trade sensitive industries and their workers in Maine":
Negotiating smarter, more transparent trade agreements
Strengthening trade enforcement capabilities
Supporting domestic industries.
"Though you possess the statutory power to unilaterally carry out many of your preferred trade policies, I strongly urge you to consult closely with Congress in order to learn how particular trade reforms might impact key state industries and economies," King wrote.
In his letter, King encouraged Trump to direct America's trade agencies to review and deploy trade tools on behalf of the forest products industry.
"While Maine's forest industry continues to be a major economic driver in Maine's rural economy, Maine has lost 50% of the softwood pulp market in the past two years, contracting by $1.3 billion and resulting in the loss of more than 5,000 jobs," he wrote. "U.S. law contains a multitude of trade tools that could be deployed on behalf of the domestic forest products industry. I encourage your incoming trade officials to carefully study all possible options that are consistent with World Trade Organization procedures and strongly consider using them to fight unfairly traded forest industry products where they occur."
The full text of King's five-page letter to President Trump is here.
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