PEOSTA, Iowa — President Donald Trump on Thursday trumpeted his trade deal with European allies, hailing it as a benefit to Iowa farmers who have been hurt by the fallout from his protectionist trade measures.
Trump said during a roundtable discussion at Northeast Iowa Community College that his White House meetings Wednesday with the European Union had helped the two sides avoid a trade dispute and would open up new markets for American agriculture.
“We just opened up Europe for you farmers. You’re not going to be too angry with Trump, I can tell you,” the president said at the workforce development event, where he was joined by two Iowa Republicans, Gov. Kim Reynolds and Rep. Rod Blum.
Trump and European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed to open talks to tear down trade barriers and address U.S. tariffs on steel imports. Trump also said the EU had agreed to buy more soybeans from American farmers, who have seen prices decline sharply since China imposed retaliatory tariffs.
Farmers and manufacturers have criticized tariffs imposed by Trump, warning that they will spur a global trade war and retaliatory tariffs from countries like China, Mexico and Canada that will damage their livelihoods and raise prices on consumers.
Iowa is among the nation’s leading producers of soybeans, and the Northeast Iowa event came on the heels of the Agriculture Department’s announcement of $12 billion in temporary aid to help farmers deal with retaliatory tariffs from U.S. trading partners.
Trump was accompanied on his Midwest trip by Ivanka Trump, his daughter and senior adviser, who said the president planned to sign legislation next week to reauthorize a program that provides money for job training and related programs for students.
Congress last authorized the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act in 2006. Lawmakers passed the bill Wednesday.
Ivanka Trump said it would help 11 million students and workers across the country acquire the technical skills they need to thrive in an increasingly digital economy. After she said Trump would sign the bill, the president joked: “Unless I don’t sign it. Maybe I’ll veto it.”
Trump was meeting later Thursday with steelworkers in Granite City, Illinois, where U.S. Steel recently announced it was firing up a furnace at Granite City Works that had been idled for more than two years. The company credited Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum for helping it re-open the steel mill east of St. Louis.
The president was scheduled to tour Granite City Works and address workers at the company’s steel coil warehouse.
Trump’s tariffs have been criticized by business leaders and members of Congress who say they could hurt companies that use steel and aluminum in their manufacturing and raise prices for consumers.
Tariffs threaten more than $3.8 billion in Illinois exports, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and major companies including Caterpillar and Boeing already have been negatively affected.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, briefing reporters aboard Air Force One, said more jobs have been created by the steel and aluminum tariffs than are being lost and he said the tariffs were instrumental in the EU talks.
“This is a real vindication that the president’s trade policy is starting to work,” Ross said.
The more than 2,000 workers laid off from Granite City Works were given notice just before Thanksgiving 2015. U.S. Steel cited low oil prices — because the mill produces steel for oil refineries and the auto industry — as well as the availability of cheap, imported steel.
Granite City Works is now near its 2015 employment level of 2,100, with a second blast furnace to be operating by this fall. Jobs there mean dozens more at steel-processing plants throughout the city that bend, cut, coat or reshape the raw product, said James Amos, Granite City’s economic development director.