During a recent trip to China, Sen. Steve Daines urged Chinese officials to return to the negotiating table to end the trade war that’s harming Montana farmers.

“We sent a message to the leadership in China that the United States and specifically the president is serious about getting a deal done,” said Daines, a Bozeman Republican. “They’re not going to get a better deal by trying to wait longer.”

China and the U.S. have been locked in a trade war for more than a year during which time the two countries have progressively increased tariffs on each other. At this point, the Trump administration has imposed more than $360 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese imports and China has imposed more than $110 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. imports.

Daines said during his trip, he emphasized the importance of agriculture, which is Montana’s top industry, to Chinese leaders.

With trade talks set to restart in the next few weeks, Daines said he would like to see China and the U.S. build on progress made at the negotiating table in May. At that time, the two countries neared an agreement, but China backed out at the last minute.

Daines said he would like a trade deal that holds China accountable for unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft while also reducing tariffs and providing Montana farmers with a level playing field and long-term access to the growing Chinese marketplace.

While in China, Daines met with some major buyers of U.S. agricultural products, including Alibaba and COFCO, and said they expressed interest in increasing U.S. exports to China.

He also gave Chinese officials letters from the Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Wool Growers Association and the Montana Grain Growers Association that urged them to make a trade deal.

In a recent interview with the Missoulian, Daines said he supports the United States’ tariffs on Chinese goods. Those tariffs have prompted China to place retaliatory tariffs on the United States, which many economists say has increased prices for consumers, sent Chinese business to other countries and slowed the global economy.

In response to these comments, the Montana Democratic Party sent out a news release Tuesday criticizing Daines, who is up for reelection in 2020.

“He’s supporting the very tactics that are hurting Montana farmers, producers and our rural communities,” said executive director Monica Lindeen in the news release. “It’s time to elect another senator who actually fights for Montanans.”

Like Daines, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte have said they are concerned the tariffs harm the state by limiting agricultural exports. They, too, have urged an end to the trade war.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

Perrin Stein is the county, state and federal government reporter for the Chronicle.

Support quality local journalism. Become a subscriber.

Subscribers get full, survey-free access to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle's award-winning coverage both on our website and in our e-edition, a digital replica of the print edition.