Government

Grassley, Blum optimistic U.S. will come out on top in trade war

Senator, though, thinks president has 'too much power' on trade

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley answers a question during a town hall at the Fayette County Courthouse in West Union on Tuesday, Jul. 3, 2018. The Fayette County meeting was part of Sen. Grassley’s annual 99 county tour of the state. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley answers a question during a town hall at the Fayette County Courthouse in West Union on Tuesday, Jul. 3, 2018. The Fayette County meeting was part of Sen. Grassley’s annual 99 county tour of the state. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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WEST UNION — Sen. Chuck Grassley said Congress has given the president too much leeway in trade deals.

“We’ve delegated too much authority to the president,” Grassley said Tuesday. “I know it would be impractical for me to say you shouldn’t delegate any power to the president, that wouldn’t be responsible administration of the law.”

Grassley, speaking at a town hall meeting at the Fayette County Courthouse, said trade powers granted to the president in the 1960s need further consideration.

“These were passed before I even got to Congress. They need to be reviewed,” he said. “Too much power has been delegated to the president.”

Grassley said the tariffs introduced by President Donald Trump have put the United States in a trade war as other countries have retaliated or plan to soon. Already, soybean future prices have plunged.

“It has escalated already,” he said.

Iowa’s congressional delegation, he said, has signed a letter to Trump urging caution on tariffs.

“We’re concerned because Iowa is the second-largest agriculture exporting (state) in the country,” U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, said in a separate interview.

Blum said Iowa exported $10 billion in agriculture products in 2017.

China, a target of Trump tariffs, buys 60 percent of Iowa’s soybeans, he said.

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“We don’t want to see countries slapping tariffs on our ag products,” Blum said. “We need more markets for our agriculture products, not less.”

Agriculture, historically, always has been hit hard by retaliatory tariffs from other countries.

“Iowa’s a big agriculture state,” Grassley said in an interview with reporters after the town hall. “We export about a third of our grains all over.”

Retaliatory tariffs are a big concern in Iowa, he said.

Grassley said he has individually and in groups spoken to Trump about the issue on three or four different occasions.

“Who wouldn’t want a president that could get us a better trade deal?” Grassley said. “In the process, it’s very unpredictable and could be very damaging. If it’s successful, it could be very helpful.”

For the most part, farmers in Iowa have told Blum and Grassley they have faith in the president.

“I’m nervous, too, about it, but I have confidence in the president,” Blum said. “After all the rhetoric and posturing is over, we’ll be OK.”

Between then and now, though, the back and forth of tariffs between the United States and other countries is a bit unnerving, Blum said.

“It’s all negotiating,” he said. “It’s just that the negotiating in this case happens to be out in public.”

Blum has maintained cautious optimism throughout the process, he said, noting one in five jobs in Iowa depends on trade.

“I’d love to see a world with no tariffs,” Blum said.

In the case of the trade war, Blum thinks the United States will come out on top.

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“Who needs who the most?” Blum said. “Do we need these other countries as much as they need us?”

Other countries are selling more to the United States than vice versa, Blum said.

“When you’re the largest economy in the world, other people need you more than you need them,” Blum said.

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