A Republican senator from a key agricultural state wants President Donald Trump to "rapidly" reduce trade conflicts with the European Union, Canada and Mexico to focus on what he deems the real problem: Chinese trade abuses.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said Thursday that following through on efforts to de-escalate tensions with allies will be "helpful in regard to our concerns with China" about alleged intellectual property theft by Chinese companies and cyberattacks originating in the country.
"Mr. President, it would be useful if we could narrow the scope and focus on China. And to do that we need to have a good trading relationship with Mexico, Canada, the European Union," Moran told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "Let's single out our efforts worldwide. They share our concerns with what China's doing. Let's work together."
Republicans have increasingly criticized Trump's tariffs on major trading partners such as Canada, Mexico, the European Union and China that have sparked retaliatory duties on American products. Those counterpunches targeting products including soybeans have taken a toll on agricultural states such as Kansas.
Trump took one major step this week to de-escalate the mounting conflict with the EU amid fears about potentially damaging U.S. tariffs on cars and auto parts imports. After Trump met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday, the pair said they will work toward removing tariffs, reassessing existing U.S. duties on steel and aluminum imports, and promoting more U.S. agricultural exports to the EU.
The pair did not announce details of a final agreement.
Moran has concerns about multiple pieces of Trump's trade policy ahead of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing he will lead Thursday, at which U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will testify. Moran wants Trump to keep the North American Free Trade Agreement in place, saying it has helped to make Mexico the top buyer of agricultural commodities from Kansas.
The president aims to renegotiate the three-nation agreement and has promised to pull out of it if he fails to secure better terms. White House officials have indicated Trump could seek separate, one-on-one deals with Canada and Mexico rather than revising the the multilateral NAFTA.
Moran told CNBC that farmers "need some reassurance" about their ability to do business.
"The circumstances we face, farmers and ranchers face in Kansas, is significantly challenging. It's dire I would say," the senator said.
Numerous Republicans and Democrats in Congress have cheered Trump's efforts to crack down on alleged Chinese trade abuses. However, many lawmakers such as Moran have argued his moves have gone too far and hurt American farmers.
On Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the Trump administration will offer up to $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers hurt by the tariff policy.