In the News

The Hill
Vicki Needham

A majority of Senate Republicans are urging the Trump administration to work closely with lawmakers to ensure the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has enough support to win the approval of Congress.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) and 31 of his GOP Senate colleagues sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Monday calling on him to avoid a "take it or leave it" strategy on the 24-year-old trade agreement. 

"As you near the conclusion of NAFTA negotiations, we urge you to closely consider the parameters and negotiating objectives outlined in TPA [trade promotion authority] and work closely with members of Congress from both parties to ensure that any agreement has the broad support necessary to be enacted into law,” the Republican senators wrote.

“In our view, a take-it or leave-it strategy could have negative unintended effects that jeopardize American jobs and economic growth,” they wrote.

President Trump has repeatedly threatened to withdraw the United States from the deal with Mexico and Canada.

“We are concerned about recent media reports suggesting that you may be considering an ultimatum strategy to pressure Congress into accepting an updated NAFTA, including through threats to withdraw from the original agreement,” the senators wrote.

“In the past, you have suggested that your goal is to achieve overwhelming bipartisan support for a modernized NAFTA,” they wrote.

“We believe this goal is only achievable through a strategy to constructively engage Members of Congress as required by TPA and without attempting to force a choice between negative outcomes,” they wrote.

The senators used the letter to request Congress be closely involved in the process of determining the contents of trade agreements under fast-track rules.

They vowed to provide any help needed to reach a deal that will bolster the U.S. economy.

“When discussing NAFTA modernization legislation with Congress, we ask the administration employ a strategy that emphasizes collaboration, rather than conflict.”

Negotiators were pushing to finish a deal this month so that Congress could consider a new agreement before the end of the year. But they fell short of the target of May 17 set by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Lighthizer said last week that even though the three countries are still nowhere near a deal, he intends to keep talking with Mexican and Canadian trade officials in an effort to update the agreement.

The GOP senators who signed the letter are Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), James Lankford (Okla.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), John Boozman (Ark.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), John Barrasso(Wyo.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Todd Young (Ind.), Thom Tillis(N.C.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), John Thune (S.D.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Roger Wicker (Miss.), Tim Scott (S.C.), John Hoeven(N.D.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Bob Corker (Tenn.), John McCain (Ariz.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Jim Risch (Idaho), Mike Lee (Utah), Bill Cassidy (La.) and Cory Gardner (Colo.).

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