Trade was at the top of the agenda at Thursday's 4th Congressional District candidate forum in Pratt.
Republican incumbent Ron Estes and Democratic candidate James Thompson spoke on health care, immigration and taxes — they don't agree on any of those issues — but many of the forum’s questions focused on trade and tariffs.
Estes praised President Donald Trump for taking on what he said are unfair trade deals with China, but admitted it has caused some temporary pain.
“Because tariffs aren’t the solution, trade aid’s not the solution," Estes said. "We need to focus on how do we move forward to get countries like China to come to the table and to move forward with ... having open markets.”
Thompson said the trade war with China has been too painful. He said farmers aren’t being compensated enough under the USDA aid package.
“Our district, specifically Wichita, is suffering more than any other district in the country because ... agriculture and manufacturing are our two main industries," he said, referencing a Brookings Institution report released in April.
The two candidates did agree, however, on the benefits the North American Free Trade Agreement has brought to the area and that the trade deal needs to be modernized.
"When you ask if it’s been good or bad, it’s been both," Thompson said. "It’s been good for our farmers, but bad for our unions and manufacturers. So I think we need to do better, and I think we can."
Estes said NAFTA has been an “overwhelming success” for the 4th District.
"We need to make sure that as we modernize the NAFTA agreement and move forward that it continues to help all of the United States' agriculture and manufacturing," he said.
About 100 people attended the forum at Pratt Community College, hosted by the area chamber of commerce. The event was the first of several debates and forums scheduled over the coming weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.