Grassley urges USMCA delay, but uncertain it will happen
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Monday led ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and other members of the committee in a letter asking Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to delay the proposed June 1 entry into force of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. But Grassley told rural reporters today that the Trump administration may resist that, and acknowledged that he has mixed feelings about the idea because it would be more difficult to put Canada and Mexico on schedule to implement the agriculture provisions in the agreement.
“USMCA should not enter into force prematurely – particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic – and thereby deny American farmers, workers, and businesses its intended benefits. We ask you to delay the proposed June 1 entry into force and work with Congress and stakeholders to determine a more feasible timeline,” the senators wrote in a letter to Lighthizer.
Although the letter does not mention the auto industry directly, Grassley acknowledged in a call to reporters the lack of new rules regarding auto production is a key factor in urging the administration to delay implementation.
In the phone call, Grassley said he has not gotten a formal response from Lighthizer but that based upon a conversation he has had with a person he declined to name, “I think there is a real feeling in this administration that if they tell Mexico and Canada that they are going to change that date that we don’t have any leverage in getting our wheat, dairy, other agriculture products into Canada” or getting “things worked out on biotech with Mexico.”
Canada and Mexico “gave up things to us,” and administration officials believe that “if we want these benefits to the United States to take effect, this administration is going to have a tough stance on the June 1 date or they don’t have any leverage,” Grassley said. Administration officials believe Canada and Mexico will “put off and put off” the ag provisions, he added.
Grassley said he still stands by the letter. “My only answer to that is it is difficult to manufacture cars if you don’t know what the rules of the game are.”
Grassley added that he has “sympathy” for the administration’s argument because he represents an agriculture state, and there were “big victories” for agriculture in the bill. But he concluded that “the letter reflects what I believe is necessary, that we are not ready.”