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Roe: China trade deal almost there

Hank Hayes • Nov 6, 2019 at 9:16 AM

KINGSPORT — A trade deal with China "going to get done fairly soon," U.S. Rep. Phil Roe said in an economic development roundtable discussion with about a dozen elected and economic development officials on Tuesday.

"The hardest hit which has affected us here in Tennessee is agriculture," Roe, R-Tennessee, said. "We went from $15 billion in trade with China to five (billion). That's a big drop in one year. So it looks like they're going to start working it out."

Congress, with 16 legislative days left in the year, needs to pass a budget, pass a bill funding the military and approve the Mexico-Canada trade deal, Roe stressed.

"Most people don't know that Mexico is our leading trading partner," Roe pointed out. "I think they're 300 votes for (the Mexico-Canada) agreement right now. I think if speaker (Democrat Nancy Pelosi) would bring it up, it would pass easily, and it would pass easily in the Senate, it's a no brainer, hundreds of thousands of jobs. And it's beneficial to to both Canada and to Mexico.”

Roe ran through a list of Northeast Tennessee's positives and negatives. The strengths included the Interstate 81 corridor, affordable housing prices and being a low tax state that is managed well.

The negatives pointed to by Roe included the ninth highest sales tax rate in the nation, bad access to affordable child care, low population growth, poor access to mental health coverage and a bottom 10 rating in crime and health care.

"It jumped out at me that drug abuse in our region is real bad," Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull told Roe. "It must a detractor to outside businesses coming in."

Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable chimed in: "We've had a war on drugs for 40 years ... we need to look at sentencing reform."

Roe noted rural communities are adversely affected in economic development when they lose their hospital. "You lose your hospital, you're done," he said.

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