Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA

Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA

Three dozen Senate Republicans on Tuesday called on President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE to preserve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerMcConnell calls for Senate hearings on Russia sanctions GOP seeks separation from Trump on Russia Republican bill aims to deter NATO members from using Russian pipeline MORE (Colo.), who spearheaded the letter-writing effort, along with 35 of his GOP colleagues, sent the letter to Trump on Tuesday, ahead of the State of the Union address, highlighting the benefits of NAFTA and offering their help to improve the agreement.

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"The next step to advance the economy requires that we keep NAFTA in place, but modernize it to better reflect our 21st century economy,” the 36 senators wrote.

“We look forward to working with you and your administration to make that modernization a reality and bring Americans even greater economic success,” they wrote.

Concerns among Republicans about the direction of Trump’s trade policy surged last week after Trump decided to follow the recommendations of the U.S International Trade Commission and levy hefty penalties on imports of solar panel technology and washing machines.

Prices of washing machines went up in response to the tariff action.

Trump has called NAFTA a "disaster" and has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the 24-year-old pact if the U.S. can’t get a better deal for its workers and businesses.

The president is expected to discuss his trade policy during his address to Congress on Tuesday night, a day after Canada, Mexico and the United States completed their sixth round of talks on the agreement in Montreal.

While trade leaders said there was progress, U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerMcConnell urges GOP senators to call Trump about tariffs Companies brace for trade war MORE said the nations were moving too slowly and need to pick up the pace to forge an updated deal. 

Senate Republicans have been circulating the letter over the past week and managed to get a signature from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Overnight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Senate to vote Monday on Trump's VA nominee MORE of Kentucky along with Republicans from South Carolina to Utah.

Republicans have been discussing Trump’s trade policy during their weekly Tuesday lunches.

After the tariff decision last week, Republicans publicly expressed opposition to the move. But they took a gentler approach in the NAFTA letter sent Tuesday, calling for cooperation between Capitol Hill and the White House.

“NAFTA supports 14 million jobs, representing thousands of jobs in each of the 50 states,” the senators wrote.

"Despite all of its benefits, however, we can do better and there are opportunities to improve the agreement,” they wrote.

The senators said modernizing NAFTA will increase market access, expand energy exports to maximize domestic energy production — a large part of Trump's domestic policy — and help on the intellectual property and e-commerce fronts that will, in the end, produce more benefits for the United States.

Trump has met with groups of pro-trade Republicans about their concerns on trade such as how leaving NAFTA would hurt U.S. agriculture.

Besides Gardner and McConnell, the letter was signed by GOP Sens. 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