Greg Nash

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on Thursday dropped his hold on President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s chief agricultural trade negotiator after securing commitments to address his concerns over U.S. proposals to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Flake decided to let Gregory Doud’s nomination move forward after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said they would work with him on a seasonal produce proposal to NAFTA he argued would hurt farmers.

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“Given the importance of U.S. agriculture and what’s at stake for them in the NAFTA negotiations, I am pleased that this nomination can move forward,” Flake said.

“While certainly there are areas in the NAFTA agreement ripe for modernization, adding ill-advised seasonal or regional components to existing trade remedies would lead to needless trade restrictions, devastating economic consequences and likely retaliation,” he said.

Flake said he will continue to work toward a solution with the administration and Hatch as well as “utilizing additional procedural tools at my disposal.”

Lighthizer also told Flake he would meet with Arizona businesses that rely on NAFTA and would be hurt by a provision.

The U.S. proposal is designed to protect U.S. producers from cheap imports from Mexico.

But Flake had warned that it would instead increase costs for U.S. consumers and hurt produce growers in his home state of Arizona and around the country. 

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association applauded Flake’s decision. 

“We’re glad that Senator Flake has finally heard our call for him to drop his hold and allow Gregg Doud to start working to improve market access around the world for our producers,” said NCBA President Craig Uden. “With talks continuing on NAFTA, the Korea-U.S. trade agreement and access to many other markets still up in the air, it’s imperative that the U.S. Senate now move as quickly as possible to confirm Doud’s nomination.”

The Finance panel easily approved Doud’s nomination for the job in late October.

Tags Donald Trump Jeff Flake North American Free Trade Agreement Office of the United States Trade Representative Orrin Hatch Robert Lighthizer
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