March 02,2009

Grassley: Some Welcome Content in President’s Trade Policy Agenda


To: Reporters and Editors
Fr: Jill Gerber for Sen. Grassley, 202/224-6522
Re: President’s trade policy agenda
Da: Monday, March 2, 2009

Today the Office of the United States Trade Representative released the
President's trade policy agenda. Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the
Committee on Finance, which has jurisdiction over international trade, made the
comments below regarding the President's agenda.

“I was glad to see that the President intends for trade policy to play an important
part in our economic recovery. That statement is long overdue. I’m ready to work with
the President to accomplish that goal. I agree we need to do everything we can to create
new market opportunities for U.S. exporters. If that means starting with the pending
trade agreement with Panama, I can accept that as long as we turn to our pending
agreements with Colombia and South Korea right afterward. I also agree that there’s an
unacceptable imbalance in the current state of the Doha negotiations. There’s still so
much ambiguity that we can’t see what benefits the current outline of an agreement
would bring to U.S. exporters. At the same time, our trading partners haven’t been shy in
demanding reductions in our domestic supports for agriculture, for example. And I agree
that the President should have trade negotiating authority — every President should,
regardless of political party, because it’s in our national interest. I’m also interested in
reforming our trade preference programs, and I look forward to working with the
President to accomplish that as well.

“But I do have some concerns with the President’s trade policy agenda. For
example, I don’t know what the President intends in saying that our trade policies should
build on the labor provisions in our existing trade agreements, or in asking how trade
policy can respond to global environmental challenges. Until I see the details, I’m
reserving judgment. But the bipartisan compromise on these issues that was reached on
May 10, 2007, was difficult for me to accept. I still question the merits of some elements
of that compromise, and we’re still waiting for our three pending trade agreements to be
implemented even though they were renegotiated to incorporate the elements of that

“I also have questions about the statement that the Administration will work with
Canada and Mexico to identify ways in which the North American Free Trade Agreement
could be improved without having an adverse effect on trade. On the campaign trail the
President called NAFTA ‘devastating’ and ‘a big mistake’ that should be renegotiated.
But renegotiation would involve a rebalancing of tariff concessions. I’m concerned that
Mexico may seek increased tariffs on agricultural exports that are important to my home
state of Iowa. I’m going to seek additional clarity from the President on that point.”