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Grassley: USTR Says Working Group Negotiations on New NAFTA Will Be Done in September

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expects to finish negotiations with the House Democrats' working group on the NAFTA rewrite in the next 20 days. Grassley, speaking Sept. 10, said he spoke with Lighthizer Sept. 6. "I hope that's not too optimistic, but he's doing it, and so I can accept his word on it, I guess," Grassley said.

At another point, however, Grassley acknowledged Lighthizer did not respond during the month of August to most of the working group's suggestions for changes. Still, Grassley said, he's optimistic that the trade pact will be ratified by Congress before the end of 2019. He said that at most meetings he had with constituents during Congress's August recess, attendees emphasized how important that ratification is.

While Grassley has to wait for the House of Representatives to act first on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, he told reporters he will move first on Section 232 reform. He said he is still hoping to find a bipartisan path to bringing a draft to the Finance Committee, which would then be subject to amendment from committee members.

"I did express to some of the members, as well as my own staff, that if we can't reach an agreement pretty soon, we might have to put it up to see what the committee can agree to without a Chairman's Mark," he said, using the term for the draft he'd introduce.