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Economy is Improving, but Trade Instability Must be Addressed

Across the country, Americans are experiencing the benefits that come from a healthy, growing economy. In just the month of June, 213,000 new jobs were created and more than 600,000 people re-entered the work force. Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law, nearly 1.3 million jobs have been created. This growth is due in large part to policies enacted by the current Congress and the Trump Administration.

In addition to strong job numbers, retail sales have increased for the fifth consecutive month. Consumers feel confident in the economy once again and because they are paying less to the government in taxes, they are free to spend their hard-earned dollars how they see fit. Their spending provides a boost to businesses, who are then able to hire more workers to meet demand and pay their employees higher wages. This is a win-win-win for consumers, American businesses and employees.

Congress and the White House have also been able to work together on reforms to the Dodd-Frank Act, which has saddled our financial institutions with burdensome regulations and hindered their ability to serve their customers. Earlier this year, the president signed into law the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, which included a number of provisions that I offered. This law provides relief to smaller, community banks and credit unions that had no part in the financial crisis but were subject to the same regulations after the fact that were put in place to keep big banks in check. When South Dakota’s banks and credit unions don’t have to spend so much on compliance costs, they can offer more services to customers and support businesses in their communities, which helps our economy flourish.

I serve on the Senate Banking Committee, which recently held a hearing to receive an economic update from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. He reported that Americans are optimistic about the state of our economy and about finding a good-paying job. I appreciated our discussion about the positive impact the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as well as the reduction of burdensome regulations, is having on our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate this year. Like Chairman Powell, I believe we have a very good opportunity for continued GDP growth. However, I shared with him my concern that trade instability—especially for the ag industry—will stifle our ability to reach our full economic potential. Without strong trading deals, I fear we may begin to lose some of the gains we’ve made in growing our economy.

It is up to the White House to finalize trade deals with our partners in Canada and Mexico, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries, as soon as possible. Retaliatory tariffs from China on South Dakota products like corn, wheat and soybeans has cost producers in our state more than $810 million in value just since March 1. With the farm economy down more than 50 percent in South Dakota over the past five years, we need stability in our commodity prices and we need strong trade deals in place—right now.

We’ll continue working to improve the economy for all Americans, and that means pushing for fair, strong trade deals. We are pleased to see that businesses are flourishing and workers are making more money, but we can’t let trade instability become an obstacle on our way to record-high economic growth.