January 10,2019

Grassley Op-ed: Free, fair trade will continue to be priority for Finance Committee

Grassley: Free, fair trade will continue to be priority for Finance Committee

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Iowans understand how important trade is to our state. Iowa’s economy depends on fair and free trade. It’s one of the top issues Iowans talk to me about during my 99 annual county meetings, through calls and emails and when Iowans visit my office in Washington, D.C.

The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a topic of debate since before President Trump took office. When he announced his plan to renegotiate NAFTA, I was skeptical and nervous about the consequences for Iowa farmers and the agricultural economy. Canada is Iowa’s largest trade partner, accounting for more than 30 percent of our exported goods. Mexico is second, accounting for approximately 17 percent of Iowa’s exports. Decreasing or losing access to these vital markets would be a disaster for Iowa farmers. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened.

As the process has moved forward, I’ve been impressed with the president’s ability to negotiate smartly, strongly and to the benefit of Iowa and the country. The updated trilateral agreement, named the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), shows that America stands ready to do business and negotiate trade agreements that create mutual economic prosperity while leveling the playing field to correct trade discrepancies that hurt Iowa and U.S. interests. It modernizes America’s most important trade relationships and generally strengthens our ability to export more "made-in-America" goods. For Iowa, it will help expand market access for dairy, eggs and poultry producers. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I’ll work with my colleagues to review the new agreement and lead it through Congress. The USMCA is a positive development and just the beginning of the administration’s mission to even the playing field for America. 

However, challenges resulting from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from our trading partners remain and may need further attention from Congress. There is also uncertainty about our nation’s future trade relationship with the United Kingdom as it formally separates from the European Union. Ongoing negotiations with China continue to be challenging for American businesses, too, particularly for farmers and agribusinesses facing retaliatory tariffs. But there are signs of progress on these fronts, and as the Finance Committee chairman I’ll help President Trump build on that progress to achieve trade victories for American businesses, farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.

Ensuring an ongoing open line of communication between Congress and the administration will be key to a successful U.S. trade strategy. In particular, I plan to continue engaging the administration regarding the trade dispute with China, holding the administration accountable as it works to ensure all sectors of the U.S. economy benefit from future trade deals and implementing new trade agreements reached in the coming months and years. The Constitution makes Congress central to U.S. trade policy, and I’m committed to discharging this duty vigorously and diligently.

Promoting free and fair trade, which has been a focal point of the Trump administration, will continue to be a priority for the Finance Committee. After World War II, the United States used trade to help rebuild countries ravaged by war. In the years since, trade policies have shifted and America has increasingly found itself at a disadvantage. It’s time we refocus our efforts on increasing American exports and keeping our international trading partners honest. 

This is particularly important when it comes to intellectual property. The United States invests an incredible amount of time, talent and taxpayer dollars in research and development. Across all demographics and industries, American innovation is changing the way we farm, manufacture and provide goods and services. We can’t continue letting foreign nations steal our intellectual property and use it against us in the marketplace. Securing and enforcing international trade agreements with meaningful and effective protections for intellectual property must be a central priority if we are to truly level the playing field.

Trade is an ever-moving target and there’s always opportunity to improve agreements to the benefit of American farmers, manufacturers and service industry workers. One thing that must remain consistent is that the United States must negotiate with good faith and from a position of strength. America was built on ingenuity, determination and grit. The only way we can maintain our position as the world’s strongest economy is to push forward with these principles and fight for trade deals that honor the hard work and resources we put into our products, services and technology. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I’ll work with my colleagues in the Senate and the Trump administration to ensure American interests are protected and that the vast opportunities that international trade offers are attainable to all Iowans and Americans.

Republican Charles Grassley represents Iowa in the United States Senate.