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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 TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts 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 HatchMellman: What happened after Ginsburg? Bottom line Bottom line 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 ThuneTrump doubles down on Section 230 repeal after GOP pushback Congress faces late-year logjam Despite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill 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 LighthizerWhiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 MORE about trade issues.

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyRaising the required minimum distribution age for America's seniors On The Money: Biden, Democratic leaders push for lame-duck coronavirus deal | Business groups shudder at Sanders as Labor secretary | Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Top Democrat: Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year 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 ReichertRep. Kim Schrier defends Washington House seat from GOP challenger Washington Rep. Kim Schrier wins primary Mail ballot surge places Postal Service under spotlight 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 PascrellTalk of self-pardon for Trump heats up House Democrats urge congressional leaders to support .1B budget for IRS Press: Trump's biggest fear is — lock him up 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 GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates Republican senators urge Trump to dodge pardon controversies Grassley suggests moderate Democrats for next Agriculture secretary 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.