Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, during an interview with Daily Iowan reporters in his Washington D.C. office on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (The Daily Iowan/Grace Pateras)
Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, during an interview with Daily Iowan reporters in his Washington D.C. office on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (The Daily Iowan/Grace Pateras)

Grassley, Ernst: Iowa trade to be protected in NAFTA renegotiation

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By Maria Curi | maria-curi@uiowa.edu

WASHINGTON – Several hours before participating in a Senate Finance Committee hearing on March 14 to consider the nomination of Robert Lighthizer for U.S. Trade Representative, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, recalled a meeting with National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro in an interview with The Daily Iowan.

“When we had a meeting with him, I said, ‘One thing you want to remember, if someone is mad at the United States because of something we’ve done for trade, usually agriculture is the first one hurt,’ ” Grassley said. “And so, you know, the message was: Be cautious when you’re renegotiating.”

One protectionist trade policy President Trump promised in his campaign was the renegotiation of NAFTA. Although it is unclear what exactly will be renegotiated, benefactors of the agreement include agriculture states such as Iowa that now face the

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Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, speaks during an interview with Daily Iowan reporters in her Washington office on March 14. (The Daily Iowan/Grace Pateras)

risk of losing exporting opportunities to Mexico and Canada.

According to the International Trade Administration, Iowa’s top two export markets include Canada, which imported $3.351 million worth of goods in 2016, and Mexico, which imported $2.306 million that same year.

Lighthizer, who has served as deputy trade representative under former President Ronald Reagan, said the way to move the economy forward was through exports.

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Reporters prepare for the March 14 Finance Committee hearing. Committee members considered the nomination of Robert Lighthizer to be the U.S. Trade Representative. (The Daily Iowan/Grace Pateras)

“I realize the anxiety and concern [for agriculture], but there’s a general consensus that NAFTA needs revision; it’s clearly outdated,” Lighthizer said during the hearing.

In an interview with the DI on March 14, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she intends to ensure that Iowa has a large voice in any NAFTA renegotiation.

“There are those that would argue NAFTA has been very difficult for many of our states, but for Iowa, when you look at the agricultural component of it, it has been very, very beneficial,” Ernst said. “We are a net export state, and so Canada and Mexico are very important to us as trade partners, and I’ll continue to push that with the Trump administration.”

Traditionally, the U.S. Trade Representative has been the leader in trade negotiations, but with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ heavy involvement in the renegotiation of NAFTA and President Trump’s creation of the National Trade Council, it is unclear what the new hierarchy of American trade policy will be.