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U.S. Sen. Steve Daines is being accused of granting China favors that are hurtful to Tibet, following a business agreement between Montana cattle ranchers and China e-commerce giant

In an opinion piece published online Sunday in the Washington Post, columnist Josh Rogin suggested that Daines, R-Mont., had returned a favor by the Chinese Embassy on Dec. 5 by hosting delegates of the Chinese Communist Party during a Washington, D.C., visit. Chinese Premier Cui Tiankai brought commerce officials to Montana earlier this year to meet with farm and ranch groups. That meeting launched talks that lead to a beef sale.

The Communist Party delegates were in town at the same time as the exiled president of Tibet. Rogin asserted the Communist Party visitors were in town to eclipse the visit of Lobsang Sangay, the exiled Tibetan leader.

The columnist said Daines hosting the delegation was at least worth the $200 million in Montana-sourced cattle agreed to purchase. However, near the bottom of his column, Rogin noted there was no evidence of any quid pro quo or illegal behavior by Daines.

Daines said Monday that turning the Chinese Embassy down wouldn’t have accomplished anything.

“It may feel good to refuse meetings, or put on theatrical hearings to empty rooms, or issue inflammatory press releases. That may win applause from columnists who are trying to prove their own theories, but it doesn’t make a difference in the daily lives of hardworking Americans,” Daines said in an email.

Sangay was in town for a Dec. 6 hearing by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Chinese suppression of Tibet. Rogin accused Daines of protecting China from accountability on human rights issues and prolonging the suffering of Tibetans.

Daines is a member of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, said Marcie Kinzel, the senator’s communications director. That commission has identified Chinese human rights violations in Tibet annually.

“Sen. Daines has substantial concerns about the widespread, systemic and persistent violations of religious liberties and human rights that are taking place in Tibet,” Kinzel said. “As a member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, he is working to highlight these abuses and advance human rights in China and around the world.”

Not long after the September meeting arranged by Daines, officials met with rancher Fred Wacker and MSGA Executive Vice President Errol Rice. The parties signed a memorandum of agreement.

The terms were later unveiled in Nov. 8 as part of a $280 billion package of deals finalized during a visit to China by President Donald Trump. The beef deal was the smallest in a micro-trade package that included $37 billion in aircraft business for Boeing and a $43 billion investment by China in an Alaskan natural gas project.

Under the beef agreement announced in November, Montana ranchers will supply $200 million worth of Montana-sourced beef to beginning in January 2018 and continuing through 2020. At a minimum, JD is expected to buy 80,000 to 90,000 cattle. Chinese investors will place an additional $100 million in Montana feedlots and a packing plant.


Agriculture and Politics Reporter

Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.