WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday suggested he could sign a long-awaited trade agreement with China in the farm state of Iowa, which has been hard hit by tariffs in a nearly 16-month trade war between the world’s largest economies.
U.S. President Donald Trump answers reporters questions as he departs for travel to Mississippi from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
Trump said on Friday evening that negotiations about a “phase one” agreement were going well and he hoped to sign the deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a U.S. location when work on the agreement was completed.
“We’re looking at a different couple of locations. It could even be in Iowa,” he told reporters at the White House. “We’re discussing locations, but I like to get deals done first.”
Trump and Xi had been expected to ink the agreement at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Santiago, Chile from Nov. 16-17, but those plans were thrown into disarray on Wednesday when Chile withdrew as host of the meeting.
Trump said he would prefer to sign the agreement in the United States. “I would do it in the U.S.,” he said. Asked if Xi would too, Trump said: “He would too.”
He said Iowa, a key state in the 2020 presidential election in early February, would be a good location.
“We’re thinking about Iowa, you know why, because it would be the largest order in history for farmers. So to me, Iowa makes sense. I love Iowa. It’s a possibility,” Trump said.
Trump won the 2016 presidential election in Iowa with 51.1% of the vote, compared to 41.7% for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The president carried Iowa by the largest margin of any Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1980.
It was not immediately clear whether China would agree to sign the trade deal in the United States.
Xi is no stranger to the farm state.
He first visited Iowa in 1985, when he was leading a government agricultural research delegation. At the time he met with first-time governor Terry Branstad, who is now Trump’s envoy to Beijing.
When he was vice president in 2012, Xi returned to the eastern Iowa town of Muscatine to meet his host family from the 1985 trip.
While the U.S.-China trade war has slashed exports of U.S. soybeans and other crops, Trump has sought to offset the harm to farmers through $28 billion in trade aid support over the past two years, and his support among farmers remains strong.
Trump’s approval rating was 71% as of Aug. 23, down from 79% in July, according to trade publication Farm Journal Pulse’s poll of 1,153 farmers.
Reporting by Makini Brice, Eric Beech and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Daniel Wallis