Nebraska Congressman says NAFTA talks going well; worries about steel tariffs

March 8, 2018 GMT

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Nebraska Congressman has returned from the latest round of NAFTA negotiations warning that imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum could backfire.

As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Adrian Smith has been in on negotiations in Canada and now in Mexico as the United States seeks to modernize NAFTA.

Smith worries about retaliation against President Donald Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

“U.S. agriculture tends to be one of the first sectors addressed by other countries as it relates to trade retaliation,” Smith tells Nebraska Radio Network.

NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement reached 20 years ago by the United States, Canada, and Mexico, making the continent a near-free trade zone.

Trump has criticized the deal, insisting the United States doesn’t benefit from it as much as Mexico and Canada. After briefly suggesting NAFTA should be scrapped, the president proposed it be re-negotiated or modernized.

Government officials and business leaders from all three counties have been negotiating over changes. Smith is part of the United States Congressional delegation which is taking part in the negotiations.

Smith says the recent federal tax overhaul approved by Congress has stimulated the economy. He sees plenty of economic momentum building. Smith says tariffs could blunt recent economic progress.

“Trade restrictions tend to not do very well for our economy,” Smith says. “President Bush tried some things with steel back early in his administration and it didn’t pan out well.”

Smith says NAFTA negotiations are moving in the right direction.