GOP candidates for Kansas governor have varying responses to Trump’s tariffs

photo by: Associated Press

In this Nov. 9, 2017, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands during a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

TOPEKA — GOP candidates for Kansas governor are offering varying responses to President Donald Trump’s imposition of tariffs on other countries, which some farm groups are warning could damage the state’s economy.

After the U.S. imposed $34 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods on Friday, Kansas Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer said he supports Trump’s efforts to improve trade agreements with other countries while appearing to acknowledge that a trade dispute could hurt Kansas farmers, The Wichita Eagle reported.

“China is a huge market for these products, so any increase in the cost to do business with China will be borne by Kansas farmers and ranchers,” Colyer said in a statement, adding: “I support President Trump’s efforts to secure more fair trading agreements.”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Trump’s approach should get a chance to work but warned it will fail “if his own country is shooting him in the back” while the president is negotiating with other countries.

China has promised to respond to Trump’s actions by placing tariffs on some American agricultural products, such as wheat, soybeans and beef.

The Kansas Farm Bureau said in April that the uncertainty of a trade war drives commodity prices lower. On Friday, the Kansas Soybean Association said Kansas soybean farmers worked for decades to create markets around the world and the focus should be on expanding trade.

Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer said the governor needs to be far more aggressive in working with governors in other agricultural states to fight for the states in trade policy.

“The prospect of tariffs being implemented on ag products, and now their implementation, has and will be hugely damaging to our ag driven economy in Kansas,” Selzer said in a statement. “We clearly need a stronger champion for ag in the governor’s office.”

Candidate Jim Barnett said in a statement that Kansas farmers have already suffered from low commodity prices and increased property taxes because of the “Brownback/Colyer tax disaster.”

“The Kansas economy was just beginning to recover and now will be slammed back down to the ground,” Barnett said.

Democrats are more united in opposition. At a debate last week, they promised to lobby the state’s congressional delegation on the importance of trade.

Josh Svaty, a former Kansas secretary of agriculture, said the state’s agricultural producers are considering supporting Democrats because “they’re being kicked so hard by a president that doesn’t seem to care or know.”

Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said Colyer is not responding to talk of trade and tariffs and needs to be held accountable, while former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said if tariffs harm the state economy, it could affect tax revenues and threaten the ability of Kansas lawmakers to increase school funding.

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