By James Oliphant
OTTUMWA, Iowa (Reuters) – Speaking in Iowa hours ahead of Donald Trump, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden ripped the Republican president’s trade policies, saying that farmers were being caught in the crossfire between the United States and China.
Biden, who served for eight years as vice president under former President Barack Obama, and Trump were visiting the early voting farm state on the same day for the first time in the 2020 campaign cycle.
Their separate appearances on Tuesday will offer voters an early glimpse at a potential general election matchup between the Democratic front-runner and Trump, who is seeking a second four-year term.
Both men kicked off their visits trading insults.
“President Trump is in Iowa today, and I hope his presence here will be a clarifying event,” Biden told a crowd at a campaign stop in Ottumwa.
The state’s farmers are being hammered by the administration’s tariff war with China, he said. He called U.S. workers “pawns” in Trump’s “game.”
“It’s really easy to be tough when someone else absorbs the pain,” said Biden, who called Trump “an existential threat” to the country.
Before leaving the White House for Iowa, Trump lashed out at Biden as he has done in the past, calling him a “loser” and a “dummy.”
“His whole campaign is to hit Trump,” the president said. “When he mentions my name that many times, I guess I should be complimented.”
Trump is due to visit an ethanol plant in Council Bluffs on Tuesday before delivering remarks at an Iowa Republican Party dinner in Des Moines. Biden is making a four-city swing over two days.
Biden and Trump will be competing for the same white, working-class voters in Iowa and elsewhere who helped Trump win the 2016 election. Iowa holds the first Democratic nominating contest next February. Trump won the state in 2016, but Democrat Obama carried it in both 2008 and 2012.
The agriculture industry has been hit particularly hard by Trump’s 10-month tariff war with China, and Beijing recently warned that U.S. farmers could lose access to the Chinese market entirely.
The Trump administration last month unveiled a $16 billion farm aid package to help offset the industry’s losses.
Trump’s tariffs on steel and other metals have also hit U.S. automakers, which are also concerned that future tariffs could be imposed on everything from critical technologies and components to fully assembled vehicles.
Biden hit Trump hard on China, saying the president’s policies were exacerbating the economic threat posed by the country.
“We can out-compete China every single solitary day,” Biden said.
Trump promised this week to go ahead with a new round of tariffs on Chinese goods if no progress is made with Chinese President Xi Jingping at the G20 summit later this month in Japan. Trump has said he expects to meet with Xi, but the Chinese have declined to confirm any summit.
Biden called for more investment in scientific research, infrastructure and a modern workforce to help counter China, and to build a united front with allies to challenge China’s “abusive practices.”
(Reporting by James Oliphant in Iowa and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney)