Good morning, and happy Friday after another long week. Here's the Digest.
1. Pence promotes trade plan. Vice President Mike Pence spent part of Thursday in Minnesota, promoting the Trump administration’s trade policies and trying to build support for the president’s replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as the USMCA. Pence visited a farm near Glyndon in the northwestern part of the state and Gerdau, a St. Paul company that mills recycled steel. The locations highlighted the difficulty of the administration’s trade stance, including tariffs, which are hurting farmers while they boost the steel industry. During his visit to the steel mill Pence played up the strong economy and said he and President Trump deserve some if the credit for it. “American steel is producing again for America and the world,” he said to a crowd of cheering workers. “We need the help of men and women who work in steel to keep the momentum in this economy rolling we need to forge trade deals that put American jobs and American workers first, and that’s exactly what the president and I have been doing since the first day we took office.” Pence said the deal would update NAFTA and be a much better deal for workers. “We need steelworkers to be heard, and we need Minnesota to be heard,” Pence said, urging Congress to pass the deal. It's "tricky business" for Pence to be selling a package that includes a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum, said Robert T. Kudrle, professor of international trade and investment policy at the University of Minnesota. The Mexicans and Canadians don't like it, nor do most Republicans in Congress, Kudrle said. (MPR News)
2. V.P. has message for Collin Peterson on farm visit. Pence, standing with farmers at a sugar beet and crop farm in Clay County, Minn., delivered a simple message, aimed at Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. “We really do believe that if U.S. House Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi puts the USMCA on the floor of the House of Representatives, it’ll pass,” Pence said. “It is a win for American farmers, a win for American workers and American manufacturing and jobs.” Pence said his visit in Minnesota is a message to his “good friend” Peterson to put pressure on the Democratic-controlled House to put the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to a vote. The trade deal needs approval from Congress in order to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement that the three countries reached in 1994. He said the lack of certainty is “impacting real-world choices on the farm." Most of the farmers talked about the challenges they face in farming and input costs, as well as low prices in part due to trade disruptions. Peterson was absent from the event. Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, which organized the farmers from throughout the state, said he notified Peterson of the event as a courtesy, but that Peterson declined because of a hearing on the farm cost-price squeeze. Peterson sent out a press release, as the event was in progress, saying he was glad Pence was coming to see “firsthand the importance of the sugar industry,” for which Peterson is a champion. Pence opposed sugar policies while serving as congressman in Indiana. (Fargo Forum)
3. New round of tariffs on Chinese products kicks in. The prices of the things we buy, from floor lamps to canoes and bicycles are slated to go up, literally overnight, as the Trump administration makes good on a promise to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of imported Chinese products. With trade talks between the U.S. and China yielding no deal, consumers and the businesses that serve them say they're bracing for bigger ripple effects. Retailers, manufacturers, small farmers and multinational conglomerates are united in their concern about the potentially damaging impacts of additional tariffs to their businesses and their consumers. China took measures to counteract the effect of those price increases. In addition to imposing their own tariffs on U.S. imports to China, they devalued their own currency. That had the effect of making Chinese products cheaper, relative to the U.S. "Of course that's going to nullify some of the intended effect Trump is aiming for, which is to shift American producers and consumers away from Chinese goods," says Menzie Chinn, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison. (NPR)
4. Lawmakers pick four new regents. The Minnesota House and Senate met in a joint convention Thursday to elect four members to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. Lawmakers selected Janie Mayeron of Minneapolis for a seat representing the 5
congressional district. Mike Kenyanya of Duluth was selected for a student at-large seat. Mary Davenport of Mankato and Kao Ly Her of Maplewood were selected for two at-large seats. All four were among the names the Regent Candidate Advisory Council (RCAC) forwarded earlier this year. Her won her seat in a close vote. The small business owner of Hmong descent, said she’s ready to fight hard for students and families. “The number one issue for them is getting quality education at an affordable rate,” Her said. The board of regents is the governing body for the university. There are 12 members who serve staggered six-year terms. (MPR News)
5. Here's one to feel good about. With her victim’s blessing, a judge has cleared the felony record of a 22-year-old Minneapolis woman who brutally assaulted a former Minnesota politician with a steel baton five years ago at the Mall of America. Mark Andrew, the former chair of the Hennepin County Board and past chairman of the Minnesota DFL Party, had urged Judge Juan G. Hoyos to support the expungement sought by Deea Elliott. At a court hearing in March, Andrew citied her concerns that Elliot’s criminal record made it difficult for her to get a good job. A prosecutor had earlier opposed the expungement. In his decision, Hoyos wrote that Elliott had successfully completed probation and “had great potential for rehabilitation.” He also said that the expungement would help her pursue education, employment, housing and other necessities. While Hoyos cited Andrew’s suggestion that she pursue her education, he did not say he was influenced by Andrew’s recommendation. Elliott, however, gave a lot of credit to Andrew. “I feel really relieved and very thankful,” she said Thursday. “I think he made a big difference ... speaking on my behalf.” (Star Tribune)