WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump will visit Granite City Works on Thursday, a day after announcing a breakthrough in trade talks with the European Union.
Trump, who will be joined by Republican Reps. Mike Bost and Rodney Davis, will cite the United States Steel-owned plant as an example of how his trade policies, including tariffs on Chinese steel, have succeeded in getting Americans back to work.
But he’s also coming to a region where other industries have been hurt by retaliation to those policies and that has an agricultural industry that has been so hurt by commodity price erosion in the wake of the tariff wars that the Trump administration is proposing a $12 billion emergency aid package for farmers.
Farmers appear to be among beneficiaries of the new agreement with the EU. On Wednesday, Trumpdescribed the agreement as a “new phase in the relationship” with the EU, and the stock market shot up . Under the agreement, Europe will lower industrial tariffs, align regulatory standards on medical products and import more U.S. soybeans.
Before a speech in Granite City that is expected to be delivered in the early afternoon, Trump will hear from people who were able to go back to work at Granite City, White House advisers said Wednesday. About 500 people — workers as well as what the White House termed business leaders — will be in attendance. The event is not open to the general public.
Trump will make his second visit to a community on or near the Missouri border in three days, and amid a huge debate over the impact of his trade policies. His defenders say he is following through on campaign promises to equal trading fields that had been unfair to many American industries.
On Tuesday, Trump spoke to the national Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City and invited Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is in a Republican primary to oppose Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to join him on stage.
“70,000 factories were shut down across this county as a result of the unbalance of trade regulations and systems in this country largely since China joined the WTO. That is what the president is focused on,” Jessica Ditto, the White House’s deputy director of communications, said Wednesday. “(Trump) is taking steps to ensure the baseless and unfair retaliation from China and other entities who are responding to this are addressed. That is why the secretary (of Agriculture) rolled out the plan for the agriculture community.”
Granite City Works is in the congressional district that Bost represents. He has supported Trump’s steel tariff actions and lauded the reopening of the steel plant. But Bost, and other Republicans, are on the defensive for proposing a bailout of another industry — agriculture — hurt by retaliation on Trump’s actions.
Bost said the $12 billion “will assist agricultural producers to meet the cost of disrupted markets.”
“This short-term relief program to boost our farmers and ranchers allows the Trump administration time to negotiate long-term trade deals that will benefit southern Illinois’ agricultural economy,” Bost said in a statement issued by his congressional office. “The United States has been taken to the woodshed for years by unfair and illegal trade practices by China and others, and the administration is right to try and level the playing field.”
Bost’s Democratic opponent, St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly, will have his own event after Trump’s visit, a town hall with organized labor at 5 p.m. at the Tri-Cities Labor Temple, 2014 State Street A, Granite City. It will address Bost’s “failure to look out for Granite City’s steelworkers,” Kelly said.
Kelly has been endorsed by the local steelworkers union.
Davis pointed out that he, Bost and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, supported in 2015 legislation strengthening enforcement rules against illegal trade practices, including steel dumping into U.S. markets by China. Then-President Barack Obama signed that as part of the American Trade Enforcement Effectiveness Act.
Davis said Trump “has made cracking down on unfair trade practices a priority, and we’ve seen people in Madison County, and elsewhere, get back to work as a result.”
Davis added: “I continue to work with the administration to mitigate any negative impact on agriculture, but when I talk to farmers in my district, many of them support President Trump, just as many criticized me for working with the last administration.”
Davis faces Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan in November. National Democrats have targeted this district, Bost’s, and Ballwin Republican Rep. Ann Wagner’s in suburban St. Louis, as potential takeovers.