Grassley outlined his trade priorities for the committee next Congress during a Senate floor speech on Thursday.
The incoming chairman added that U.S. Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico, and ongoing retaliation by those countries, will hurt U.S. farmers and businesses that rely on those metal imports.
“I strongly disagree with the notion that imports of steel and aluminum, automobiles and auto parts somehow could pose a national security threat,” he said.
A good starting point for reviewing the president’s Section 232 authorities is legislation introduced on Aug. 1 to shift decision-making authority for starting 232 investigations from the Commerce secretary to the Defense secretary, Grassley said.
That bill was introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and also would give Congress the authority to nullify any Section 232 remedy through passage of a disapproval resolution.
Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives the president broad authorities to impose trade remedies when the executive branch finds through investigation that certain imports threaten national security.
While he’s “not a fan of tariffs,” Grassley intends to work to quickly advance implementing legislation for USMCA during the next Congress with the Trump administration’s help, he said.
In addition to praising several USMCA provisions, including on intellectual property rights, agriculture and currency manipulation, Grassley said he is happy the administration is pursuing new trade agreements with the EU, United Kingdom and Japan.
Despite EU objections, he expects agriculture to be included in the scope of U.S.-EU trade talks, he said.
“The notion that some people in the EU think there could be an agreement that doesn’t address the many ways they block our good agricultural products from being sold in Europe is ridiculous,” states a transcript of the speech released by Grassley’s office.
Grassley expects any trade agreement with the U.K. to include agriculture as well, he said.
He added that he has a “great interest” in the recently launched World Trade Organization reform process and criticized the fact that WTO rules allow the world’s second-largest economy, China, to self-certify as a developing country, which affords it certain protections that developed countries don’t get.
Current Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is retiring after serving 42 years as a senator.