- Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
- Republican Sen. Pat Toomey suggested President Trump’s new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico does not have any path forward in the new Congress.
- Toomey said there is too much Democratic “resistance” to the plan, despite “concessions” made by the White House.
- Trump has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from NAFTA, which lawmakers have said he has no authority to do.
WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. Pat Toomey suggested that President Donald Trump’s proposed trade agreement with Mexico and Canada to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is essentially dead on arrival in Congress, citing heavy resistance from Democrats who now control the House majority.
In a meeting with reporters in his Capitol Hill office Thursday, Toomey discussed his legislation that would require congressional approval of Section 232 tariffs like those the White House has implemented on steel and aluminum.
Regarding the new USMCA trade deal, Toomey insisted the plan does not have a clear path forward to being ratified by Congress.
Toomey noted that he urged the White House to get moving on having Congress approve the USMCA last year, in which Republicans controlled both chambers, by steering parts of the agreement in the direction of free trade policies.
Because many Republicans were hesitant about the deal, Toomey said certain tweaks could have been made to get a Republican Congress on board.
“Obviously that ship has sailed and now we’re in a position where our Democratic colleagues are – I’m not a aware of a single elected Democrat member of Congress who’ve endorsed this,” he said. “Maybe you are but I’m not. I’m aware of many who have panned it.”
Despite what Toomey characterized as “a lot of concessions” by the White House and “protectionist provisions that were meant to satisfy the protectionist urges of some of my Democratic colleagues,” those changes have not been sufficient to get any Democrats on board.
“So it’s not clear to me what the path forward is,” Toomey added. “As I’ve warned the administration, there’s a lot of resistance from Democrats. I don’t see this as a high priority for Speaker Pelosi – maybe I’m mistaken.”
Lawmakers are increasingly nervous about Trump’s NAFTA threats
Toomey himself has criticized the threat, noting that a rapid NAFTA withdrawal “would be extremely disruptive.”
“The markets would go haywire,” he told INSIDER in December. “I mean supply chains would be very, very disrupted. It’d be very harmful to the economy, to jobs in the United States.”
“So it’s not a good policy,” Toomey added. “But as I say, I simply reject the idea he has the authority to do it.”
The threat to pull out of NAFTA has come up before. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, recently suggested Trump withdraw from NAFTA, but clarified that he meant it as a hypothetical in the event Democrats wanted to go back to the drawing board on the USMCA.
“No, I don’t want the president to withdraw,” Grassley said. “But I was trying to make a case that surely Democrats would not want to force renegotiation and expect to open this all up, which isn’t what happened anyway.”