WASHINGTON, D.C. (DTN) -- After Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and other Republican senators met with President Donald Trump on trade Thursday, Grassley issued a statement that, "as a family farmer and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee," he was glad to present his views on trade to the president. But Grassley said nothing about how Trump responded.
Grassley has said repeatedly that Trump needs to lift the tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum before the Senate will consider approving the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that is supposed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"I was glad to be able to share with President Trump how farmers and businesses in Iowa are eager for Congress to pass USMCA," Grassley said.
"I want to be able to help President Trump get a victory on trade and help him keep his promise to get a better deal for American workers and farmers.
"I urged President Trump to work with us to get past the steel and aluminum tariffs issue so USMCA can become law in the United States, Mexico and Canada. The USMCA is a historic achievement for President Trump. Lifting metal tariffs on Canada and Mexico will help the broader U.S. economy realize the agreement's full benefits and will help a strong economy grow even stronger.
"I'll continue to work with my colleagues in Congress and the Trump administration to make sure the tariffs go, so USMCA can replace NAFTA and become law this year," Grassley said.
"We should keep in mind that tariffs are a tax on Americans and we shouldn't undermine the benefits of historic tax reform with tariffs."
Neither the senators nor Trump spoke to reporters after the meeting, but Trump tweeted that tariffs "are working" because they bring back steel jobs to Pennsylvania.
Also attending the meeting were Senate Republicans Rob Portman of Ohio, John Cornyn of Texas, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and John Thune of South Dakota, Washington Trade Daily reported.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday that the Trump administration will not lift the steel and aluminum tariffs against Mexico and Canada without some kind of limits on those shipments.
"The president is not going to take tariffs off unless there are other things that protect national security," Ross said in an interview on Fox Business. "There are other ways to solve that problem and there have been serious discussions with both Mexico and Canada about alternative routes."
Mexico and Canada continue to resist the Trump administration's offer to replace the tariffs with quotas.
Across the Midwest, groups such as Tariffs Hurt the Heartland and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers have been holding events trying to focus on the negative impacts of the steel and aluminum tariffs. Grassley's counterpart, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, spoke last week at an event saying the tariffs against Canada and Mexico should be lifted.
Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, is continuing his push for approval of the USMCA Friday in Lexington, Kentucky, where he will discuss the benefits of the trade deal with employees of Hallway Feeds, the Washington Trade Daily said.
Pence Chief of Staff Marc Short said the White House is optimistic about getting USMCA approved, the Washington Trade Daily added. Short suggested Congress should pass the USMCA first and then Trump could make an "adjustment" to the tariffs.
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport
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