Sen. Chuck Grassley clarifies NAFTA comments: 'No, I don't want the president to withdraw'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesSen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley clarified his comments that President Trump should withdraw from NAFTA.
  • Grassley noted it would “un-level the playing field.”
  • Many lawmakers are in agreement that Trump does not have the legal authority to unilaterally withdraw from NAFTA.

WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley walked back his comments about wanting President Donald Trump to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Wednesday.

Grassley told reporters last week he “would encourage the president to pull out of NAFTA” if Democrats wanted to renegotiate from the start on the new trade agreement under consideration, the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Read more:

Republicans and Democrats agree: Trump can’t just do what he wants with NAFTA

On Wednesday, Grassley walked back the comments, clarifying that it was a hypothetical situation and that a withdrawal would only be necessary in the event Democrats want to go back to the drawing board on the new USMCA.

“No, I don’t want the president to withdraw,” Grassley told reporters. “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.”

Grassley, who recently became the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, added a withdrawal would bring the United States back to the unfair trade practices from before NAFTA.

“And then we would have difficult trouble, expenses getting our products in there and they’d get their product into us at lower tariff,” he said. “So, you know, level the playing field. Why would you want to un-level a level playing field?”

Trump regularly threatens to unilaterally withdraw from NAFTA, citing an urgency to get his USMCA approved by Congress.

But most lawmakers on Capitol Hill agree that Trump has no such authority to begin with.

“The simple fact is NAFTA was enacted through legislation. It requires legislation to repeal it,” Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican on the Finance Committee, told INSIDER in December. “The bizarre thing about the administration’s contention is they acknowledge that if they changed one word in NAFTA they have to come back to Congress to get it approved, but somehow they can strike the whole thing and they don’t need Congress for that? That makes no sense and it is not consistent with the legislation.”

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