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House and Senate lawmakers urged President Trump 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 Hatch (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 Thune (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 Lighthizer about trade issues.

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (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 Reichert (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 Pascrell (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 Grassley (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. 

Tags Bill Pascrell Charles Grassley Dave Reichert Donald Trump economy John Thune Kevin Brady North American Free Trade Agreement Orrin Hatch Robert Lighthizer Robert Lighthizer trade deals

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