Lawmakers call on Trump to preserve NAFTA

Lawmakers call on Trump to preserve NAFTA
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House and Senate lawmakers urged President TrumpDonald John TrumpActivists highlight Trump ties to foreign autocrats in hotel light display Jose Canseco pitches Trump for chief of staff: ‘Worried about you looking more like a Twinkie everyday’ Dershowitz: Mueller's report will contain 'sins' but no 'impeachable offense' MORE and his top trade official in Wednesday meetings to complete negotiations of an updated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Several members of the Senate Finance Committee, who met with Trump at the White House, expressed the importance of the 24-year-old NAFTA pact with Mexico and Canada to the U.S. economy along with the their concerns about the U.S.-China trading relationship.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchHatch warns Senate 'in crisis' in farewell speech Senate confirms Trump's pick to be deputy Treasury secretary Brzezinski: It’s ‘despicable’ for GOP lawmakers to dismiss Cohen memo implicating Trump MORE (R-Utah) called the conversation “robust.”

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"In our meeting, we underscored that preserving NAFTA is vital for the millions of Americans whose jobs depend on trade in North America, and that weakening the agreement would jeopardize American economic growth,” Hatch said.

“We committed to working with the president to improve and modernize the agreement," Hatch said.

"We also discussed the mutual desire to confront the challenges China poses to American businesses and workers."

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOn The Money: Trump, Dems battle over border wall before cameras | Clash ups odds of shutdown | Senators stunned by Trump's shutdown threat | Pelosi calls wall 'a manhood thing' for Trump Senators dumbfounded by Trump vow to shut down government The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe MORE (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Agriculture and Finance committees, said he told Trump how important the pact is for his economy of state and the country.

"I was able to express to him today how important the North American Free Trade Agreement is to agriculture, South Dakota’s top industry, and I urged him to keep the unique needs of this industry at the forefront of the administration’s trade negotiation effort,” Thune said.

Last week, 36 Republicans senators called on Trump to preserve NAFTA and don't follow through with threats to withdraw from the agreement, in a letter ahead of the State of the Union address last week.

Republicans have expressed concern about the direction of Trump’s trade policy.

In a separate meeting, Republicans and Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerMcConnell urges GOP senators to call Trump about tariffs Companies brace for trade war MORE about trade issues.

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyHouse Democrats poised to set a dangerous precedent with president’s tax returns IRS issues guidance aimed at limiting impact of tax on nonprofits' parking expenses On The Money: New director takes helm at troubled consumer agency | Trump’s economy teetering on trade tensions, volatile markets | Brexit crisis deepens | House report scolds Equifax over breach MORE (R-Texas) said congressional lawmakers and Lighthizer discussed ways they can work together on the trade agenda.

"People in my district and across the country are counting on us to get this right, which is why we all have to stay at the table," Brady said.

"Congress has the Constitutional responsibility over trade — and we’re committed to fulfilling our duty in close coordination with the administration."

Trade Subcommittee Chairman Dave ReichertDavid (Dave) George ReichertWashington New Members 2019 How Republicans who voted against ObamaCare repeal fared in midterms Election Countdown: Recount prospects grow in Florida | Abrams team to sue over absentee ballots | Dem wins pivotal Georgia House seat | A look at the uncalled races | Corporations spend big to beat ballot measures MORE (R-Wash.), who attended the sixth round of NAFTA talks last week in Montreal, said "our trade agreements have greatly benefited communities across the country, but we can and should update our agreements and make improvements."

"I’ve made clear that the best way to improve our trade agreements is to require ambitious and fully enforceable commitments from our trading partners," he said.

Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellOn The Money: Senate banking panel showcases 2020 Dems | Koch groups urge Congress not to renew tax breaks | Dow down nearly 400 | Cuomo defends Amazon HQ2 deal Dems mark Trump tax returns as key part of agenda Dems eye ambitious agenda if House flips MORE (D-N.J.), ranking member on the Trade Subcommittee who also traveled to Montreal, said in the meeting “we focused on making progress toward an improved NAFTA agreement this year with Mexico and Canada."

Pascrell said he was pleased with Lighthizer’s response over his concerns about the lack of independent unions and raising minimum wages in Mexican manufacturing industries.

"I was pleased Lighthizer tried to build confidence with us that he will consult closely with Congress going forward."

Separately, Sen. Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTop security officials issue stark warning of Chinese espionage efforts Lame-duck Congress should pass First Step Act The Hill's Morning Report — Takeaways from the battle royal in the Oval Office MORE (R-Iowa) joined the Americans for Farmers & Families (AFF) on Wednesday to launch a coalition in Iowa that will work to advocate for the importance of preserving and updating NAFTA.

“The president has made great progress for the economy and it has been enhanced by his signing of the tax reform bill … if we withdraw from NAFTA it will undo a great deal of benefits of the tax bill from the economy,” Grassley said at the announcement.