In the News

The Emporia Gazette
Ryann Brooks

Senator Jerry Moran spoke on tariffs, Russia and local issues during a town hall meeting Saturday morning at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Strong City.

Moran has been a critic of the Trump Administration’s use of tariffs to punish China’s “bad behavior” and said Kansans were already feeling the effects throughout the state. With losses upwards of $150 million reported in just three months, Moran said he and other senators were stressing the importance of renewing trade agreements.

“I’m on a campaign to convince the administration that trade matters,” Moran said. “Exports are how we live in our state. It’s agricultural, but it’s broader than that.”

Moran said he’s spoken with President Donald Trump as well as Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer about the importance of resolving trade issues within the North American Free Trade Agreement, rather than pushing talks out to wait for a “better deal.”

“I’ve talked to them all with the message that, ‘While you say that you can approve NAFTA, for example, we can’t wait much longer for you to negotiate that better deal,’” Moran said. “Commodity prices in Kansas are going to be so bad for our farmers. They can’t afford another bit of uncertainty.”

Moran said he has a committee meeting with Lighthizer Thursday where he will continue to speak on the importance of trade agreements.

“In addition to NAFTA, we should have been involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Moran said. “For a moment we had convinced President Trump of [the TPP] and we said, ‘We agree with you that China is misbehaving. They steal our trade secrets, they take our technology, they attack us with cyber, but trade war is not a solution.’”

Involvement in TPP would have made the US more competitive in the world market overall, he said, and that’s why he’s been working to get local businesses, bureaus and organizations to contact their congressmen about the importance of crafting trade agreements.

“We need to let them know we can’t let NAFTA expire,” Moran said. “On the tariffs, the problem for us in Kansas when we raise tariffs is the natural thing — the thing we export more of than anything else is agriculture. China, Canada, Mexico, the European Union — they’ve all raised their tariffs on agriculture, so we’re bearing the brunt on that kind of tariff war.

“This is a case in which I think senators, and particularly Republican senators, are very vocal with the administration on how damaging a tariff battle can be and how important it is to get these trade agreements locked in and resolve these differences between Canada, Mexico and the United States.”

A longstanding trade battle will result in a “lost generation” of Kansas farmers, but on top of that, Moran said, aircraft manufacturers who routinely purchase parts and equipment from Mexico and Canada with customers around the world are also feeling the effects.

“Exports matter to us,” he said. “Trade matters to us.”

When asked about Russian hacking, Moran addressed the president’s recent remarks about US intelligence findings on Russia’s election tampering.

“There is no question in my mind that Russians intruded in our elections and in other places — in France and Germany,” Moran said. “I have no doubt that [Russian President Vladimir Putin], as the leader of Russia, is trying to cause dissension and disunity among Americans, the United States and Europe, and trying to diminish the faith people have in our democratic institutions.”

Moran said he believed the attacks were designed to make it more difficult for the US to contain Russia on the world stage.

“There’s no doubt,” he said. “We sent troops from Fort Riley to Europe to keep Russia from moving west, to keep them from intruding on other countries like they did the Ukraine and Crimea. If it’s so important for us to risk the lives of our military men and women, it’s important for our country to push back in every other way on Russian involvement in things around the world.”

He also believed Russia was trying to undermine the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which President Trump himself has publicly pushed back against by alienating European allies.

“I spoke on the floor [this week] on the importance of NATO — that alliance matters to us,” Moran said. “It’s hard to know how the president sees this because he’s answered it in a couple of different ways. I’ve indicated that, in my view, that the president missed an opportunity in Helsinki to publicly instruct, request, demand that the Russians stay out of our elections. I hope that’s a conversation that took place at some point in time, but we don’t know because it didn’t take place in public.”

Moran also spoke of the importance of broadband access in rural markets. Chase County, as well as other rural communities around the state, often lack solid options for reliable internet access. Chase County Commissioner Tony Hazelton said it was ironic that a fiber optic line passed by his home, but he wasn’t able to access it.

Hazelton said the Chase County Chamber of Commerce would be hosting a meeting about ways to address the issue locally soon.

Teamsters Ray Loomis of Emporia and Thomas Thompson of Strong City asked Moran to speak on their behalf with other Republicans about the importance of protecting pensions.

Loomis said pensions have been in danger of deep cuts, causing hardships to retirees. Several years ago, it was discovered that the Central States Pensions Fund was in danger of going insolvent due to the 2015 Omnibus spending bill. The bill included provisions to the Multi-Employer Pension Reform Act of 2014 that allow trustees of certain multi-employer plans to cut retirees’ pensions.

Thompson compared it to if the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation allowed financial institutions to go broke without recourse.

“It looks like mismanagement,” he said.

Moran said he would instruct his staff to find out who they needed to talk to in order to get actions moving on the issue.

Moran said constituents in other parts of the state have also been focused on national issues that have local impacts, such as the 2018 Farm Bill, health care and trade.

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