Senate finance chair says no to giving Trump more tariff authority

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FILE PHOTO: Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Charles E. Grassley gives a preliminary statement before Christine Blasey testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., September 27, 2018. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said on Wednesday that Congress will not grant any expansion of President Donald Trump’s executive authority over tariff and other trade remedies.

“We ain’t going to give him any greater authority. We already gave him too much,” Grassley, an Iowa Republican, told reporters in response to a Bloomberg report that the White House is preparing a bill that would seek to give Trump broad authority to levy new tariffs to break down other countries’ non-tariff trade barriers.

Trump previously sought to expand his authority on trade with an attempt last year at legislation that would allow “reciprocal tariffs” and that would abandon key disciplines agreed at the World Trade Organization.

Trade has become one of the administration’s key priorities, with Trump seeking new trade pacts with China, Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Japan. Washington has already reworked the North American trade treaty with neighbours Mexico and Canada, though it has yet to be voted on by the new Congress.

Grassley said he thought concerns over labour and other elements of the agreement held by Democratic lawmakers could be addressed through side letters, rather than renegotiation of the deal.

Steel and aluminium tariffs on Canada and Mexico are hurting farmers and “those have to go” in order to get agricultural interests to support congressional approval the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade deal, Grassley said.

Reporting by Chris Prentice and David Shepardson; editing by Richard Chang

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