By MARK McCARTHY Star-Herald
Feb 29, 2020
With the recent success of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and trade agreements with China and Japan, Nebraska Third District Congressman Adrian Smith said the next opportunities on the horizon are likely to include Europe and Africa.
Smith said Thursday that he believes the European Union and the United Kingdom have quality potential, but agriculture has to be a key ingredient for any agreement.
“The vast benefits of a trade deal between the U.S. and E.U. and U.K. are apparent I believe for all parties,” Smith said. “A trade deal is only possible, though, if we include agriculture. The E.U. and the U.K. want to exclude agriculture, which doesn’t make sense on its face, and certainly politically speaking, I don’t think we would have the votes to pass a trade agreement if agriculture were excluded.
“Agriculture is probably the number one U.S. trade constituency, realizing how important trade is to American agriculture and how we, as Americans, and producers across America can not only help feed Americans on an affordable basis for consumers, but help feed the world as well.”
U.S. representatives, including Smith, have reached out to representatives of Kenya in an effort to begin working on a trade agreement with the African country.
“We don’t have a lot of trade agreements around Africa,” Smith said. “Obviously, the population numbers are there that would show some opportunities, certainly to help feed Africa, but also to engage in trade on a larger scale as well. I’m anxious to work on a trade agreement with Kenya.”
Smith said initial meetings with Kenyan officials have gone well.
“We had a meeting with the Kenyan president a couple weeks ago, and also I’ve had direct meetings with the Kenyan Parliament, who are in (Washington, D.C.) this week,” he said. “This, I see as a good opportunity to set up an overall framework for pursuing trade agreements elsewhere in Africa as well.”
In addition to trade agreements, Smith is working to improve rural health care. U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar held a hearing Thursday with the House Ways and Means Committee, of which Smith is a member. At the hearing, Smith was able to ask Azar about priorities for improving rural healthcare, such as the need for modernizing the current rural health clinic system.
“We know that with 111 rural health clinics in the Third District, these are very important,” Smith said. “I asked (Azar) about the reimbursement strategies that the department is using, and I am certainly eager to get more information from the department because of its important role in all of rural health care.”
Smith has introduced the Strengthening Innovation in Medicare and Medicaid Act, bipartisan legislation that would implement “common sense guardrails” for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, also known as CMMI.
“CMMI was created by Obamacare to rapidly test new models involving payment for patient care to lower cost for improved actual patient outcome,” Smith said. “There are concerns, however, that CMMI was given overly broad exemptions from existing regulations and judicial review, allowing these models to actually make sweeping changes without any congressional oversight. So these modest guardrails for CMMI within my bill would ensure that new models are appropriately limited in size and scope and to also reassert congressional approval in model expansion and at the same time, encouraging innovation at every opportunity.”