CEDAR RAPIDS — As the nation’s multifront trade war extends into its 14th month, Iowa’s elected officials are calling for speedy approval of a new North American trade pact, but the next move is up to President Donald Trump.
“Getting USMCA done is a big deal,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig. “When you look at Iowa, Canada and Mexico are our No. 1 and No. 2 trading partners by far. So I’ve always said, you don’t need to have a degree in economics to understand the impact of having zero tariffs across those borders.”
Naig and other were encouraged by the recent agreement between the three nations to end U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico as well as retaliatory tariffs from Mexico and Canada on U.S. products. That removed the biggest hurdle to ratification of the Unites States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Sen. Chuck Grassley said. The pact replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“Iowa pork, soybean and corn farmers can breathe a sigh of relief that they will once again be able to sell their products in Canada and Mexico on a level playing field,” Grassley said.
“Folks, this is big news for Iowa,” Sen. Joni Ernst told reporters earlier this week.
“It is past time” for lifting of the tariffs that have harmed Iowa farmers and manufacturers, added 2nd District Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack.
And now that there is an agreement to end the tariffs, Ernst called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring the USMCA up for a vote in the House.
That can’t happen fast enough for U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer.
“I wake up thinking about trade, I go to bed thinking about trade,” the 1st District Democrat said. But, she added, there’s nothing the House can do right now.
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“There’s a misconception that Congress can take action at the moment,” Finkenauer said. “But the administration hasn’t delivered it to Congress for us to vote on.”
It’s unknown when Trump will send the pact to Congress. Thursday the president said he may send it to Congress soon, which would trigger a 60-day deadline for lawmakers to act.
However, he didn’t commit to putting it in Congress’ hands because he isn’t sure Pelosi will allow a vote.
Pelosi, who has said the USMCA needs stronger enforcement provisions, wants two weeks to study the agreement before bringing it up for a vote.
Finkenauer doesn’t think Trump shares Iowans’ sense of urgency.
“We heard the administration say there was no need to rush” to reach an agreement with China, she said. “I find that offensive to the hardworking Iowans I’ve heard from. They aren’t asking for a whole lot of help, but to be treated with dignity and respect and for the administration to take this seriously and have some urgency behind it.”
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