The Senate’s senior Republican issued an ultimatum to President Trump on Sunday, saying either he cancels his trade-war tariffs or else he can forget about getting his U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal through Congress.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, chairman of the Finance Committee and president pro tempore of the Senate, said Mr. Trump’s eagerness for tariffs on steel and aluminum imports has become a major hindrance in talks over approving the USMCA trade deal.
“If these tariffs aren’t lifted, USMCA is dead. There is no appetite in Congress to debate USMCA with these tariffs in place,” the Iowa Republican wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.
The USMCA is the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Mr. Trump railed against in the 2016 election. The new USMCA heightens some concessions to U.S.-based manufacturing.
Mr. Trump said late last year he would terminate NAFTA, forcing Congress into a take-it-or-leave-it position on the USMCA. But Mr. Grassley’s op-ed suggests that would be a losing strategy.
Mr. Grassley, a farmer himself, said he’d initially been skeptical of the president’s fondness for tariffs and his tough talk on trade, but now sees “Mr. Trump was on to something.”
The president has challenged China over intellectual property theft, is working on a trade deal with China and Japan, and has opened new markets for U.S. goods, such as Argentina now importing U.S. pork for the first time since 1992.
But Mr. Grassley said the steel and aluminum tariffs have provoked retaliation from Canada and Mexico that’s hit home for Iowa farmers. He said Mexico’s tariffs on U.S. pork have sliced $12 off the value of a live hog.
“Iowa is the top pork-producing state in the country. That means jobs, wages and communities are hurt every day these tariffs continue — as I hear directly from Iowans. It’s time for the tariffs to go,” Mr. Grassley wrote.
The president, who says he loves tariffs, has said he considers the levies he slapped on steel and aluminum to be separate from the USMCA.
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