One of Trump’s closest allies says Congress will defy the president if he makes a move that could start a trade war

Donald Trump and Orrin Hatch.

Donald Trump and Orrin Hatch.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

  • Sen. Orrin Hatch said Congress would override any move by President Donald Trump to pull the US out of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
  • Hatch said he thinks Trump’s threat to leave NAFTA is just a negotiating tactic, but he is watching closely because “we can’t afford to pull out of NAFTA.”
  • The seventh round of negotiations on NAFTA kicked off Monday.

Sen. Orrin Hatch on Tuesday said Congress would likely override President Donald Trump if the president attempts to pull the US out of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Hatch, a Republican who has called Trump “one of the best” presidents he has served under, said during a Chamber of Commerce talk on Tuesday that Congress would pass a “veto-proof” bill to keep the US in NAFTA if Trump decides to try and terminate the deal according to World Trade Online.

Hatch said Trump’s threat to pull the US out of the agreement was likely a negotiating tactic, but the threat was still worrying.

“He certainly knows how to negotiate, and that’s certainly part of his negotiating posture,” Hatch said. “But yeah, I’m concerned because we can’t afford to pull out of NAFTA.”

Trump has long criticized NAFTA, the free trade agreement between the US, Canada, and Mexico. During the campaign, then-candidate Trump called it the “worst trade deal in the history of the country.”

While Hatch and other GOP lawmakers have supported the president’s push to update the terms of the wide-ranging deal, Republicans have warned the president against ending NAFTA altogether.

“It is equally important for us to combat trade practices by foreign nations that harm American businesses and undermine the world, but the tactics we choose must be targeted directly at specific countries and specific practices,” Hatch said.

Hatch, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, helped push the original NAFTA agreement through the Senate in 1993. Since Trump’s election, the Utah senator consistently pushed back on some of Trump’s more anti-trade comments.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer kicked off the seventh round of NAFTA negotiations on Monday. Negotiations throughout 2017 appeared to go nowhere, but the most recent round in January produced a more upbeat response from the various sides.

Hatch also issued a warning on tariffs – taxes on imports. The Trump administration is considering imposing new tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum under a little-used portion of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Reports have suggested that Trump wants to slap a 24% or 25% tariff on all steel imports.

“For example, as the administration considers remedies under Sections 232 and 301, we must keep in mind that tariffs aren’t paid by foreigners,” Hatch said. “Tariffs are taxes paid by American businesses and American families, and new tariffs would jeopardize some of the opportunities we successfully created through tax reform.”

Most experts agree that increased barriers to trade could push up inflation pressures and dampen US economic growth.