Concern Over Path Of Trade Reform Growing In Senate

Trade Policy
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There seems to be a growing frustration among the Republicans in the Senate, as they lack a clear direction to move in from the President Trump’s agenda on Trade. The Republicans have multiple times informed the President that steps are needed, in order to improve trade as it is hurting the interest of U.S.’s own exporters.

The Republican members, in the Senate Finance Committee, came forward with similar concerns about the U.S. Trade and the President’s agenda on the topic in a meeting between them and the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, held recently.

The GOP lawmakers, especially the ones from the states that rely heavily on agriculture sector, have two major issues from administration.

These lawmakers are concerned with the Congress’s feedback on these negotiations with both, Mexico and Canada, and about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement – NAFTA. President Trump, however, warned to step back from the NAFTA Agreement.

Similarly, they are very frustrated by the very slow progress of the talks between the bilateral agreements of trade with the Pacific Rim countries that the President has promised after they pull out from the Trans-Pacific Partnership – TPP, in January.

In the meeting with the Lightizer, the republicans had made their displeasure a point, as per the Senator John Cornyn. Cornyn is the member of Finance Committee in the Senate.

“There’s a number of frustrations with their approach including — as I’ve told the ambassador before — they need Congress to ratify it under [Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)] and so they don’t seem to be paying that much attention to what members of the Senate think,” Cornyn said.

TPA further allows the administration to continue their talks on the trade deals. As per the TPA law, the Congress would have full authority to review the proposed U.S. trade agreements and to decide if it is to be implemented.

“Members are frustrated the administration isn’t regularly consulting with them during NAFTA negotiations as they’re obligated to under TPA,” said a Senate Republican aide.

The GOP lawmakers are also worried that shifting the trade relations with both, Canada and Mexico, in such a drastic way would affect the economy and would affect the desired results expected from the tax cut package that the President just signed into a law.s

The Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee – Pat Roberts said, “It would be a paradox of enormous irony if here we’re passing a tax bill to achieve economic growth and on the other side of it pulling the trigger on NAFTA — if the president would do that — could very well cause a farm recession and a stock market reaction that would be very counterproductive.”

About the proposal of changing trade relations with Canada and Mexico, he said, “If you do that, I don’t know that anyone would sign up.”

A spokesperson for the Senate Finance Committee said that the Chairman Orrin Hatch and the other members of the panel who met with Lighthizer discussed “a variety of trade issues, including ongoing NAFTA negotiations.”

Hatch said that “weakening NAFTA would be detrimental to the U.S. and Utah’s economy.”

The President’s transition officials also indicated the lawmakers and the media almost a year in advance that the administration may have several new deals to be replaced with TPP. As per a Trump adviser who said in January that, “You will be shocked by the speed at which bilateral agreements begin to materialize.”