Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley suggested today that U.S. and Canadian officials could be nearing a deal to lift the tariffs President Donald Trump imposed on steel and aluminum imports.
Grassley, in a call with reporters, said he’s hopeful U.S. and Canadian officials are working to conclude negotiations “based on the fact that it seems to me … that they’re talking.”
“That’s my understanding. And [there’s] even the possibility of some face-to-face talks very soon. And maybe in 48 hours I’ll have a more definitive answer for you,” the Iowa Republican added.
The Trump administration has met with Canadian and Mexican officials on and off for almost a year in an effort to remove the tariffs and replace them with quotas. However, both countries have pushed back against the Trump administration’s insistence on quotas, and it remains unclear what a deal to lift the tariffs would look like for the North American trading partners.
Removing the duties, which Trump imposed on national security grounds, would clear a major hurdle in the effort to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in all three countries. Grassley has repeatedly called for the Trump administration to lift the tariffs, going so far as to say the USMCA is dead if the duties are not removed.
Grassley did not indicate the status of talks with Mexico. But Jesús Seade, Mexico’s undersecretary for North America, told POLITICO earlier this month that he was pushing to resolve the tariffs issue in coming weeks to clear the path for Mexico to ratify the trade deal.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said earlier this month that the U.S. was “not going to take tariffs off unless there are other things that protect national security.”
A deal for tariff relief would also put more pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be more explicit about what House Democrats are demanding in order to get USMCA passed, Grassley said.
The Iowa Republican added that the replacement deal for NAFTA must be passed by Congress this year — or else it won’t get ratified until after the 2020 elections.
“If we don’t get it done this year, it won’t be done until after the next presidential election,” Grassley said.