During a visit to Emmetsburg on late Friday afternoon, Senator Chuck Grassley expressed doubt that the Trans Pacific Partnership would become reality anytime soon. While the trade agreement is expected to benefit Iowa’s agricultural exports , concerns over workers rights, environmental protections and manufacturing have stalled its advancement.
“It’s my feeling that right now TPP is very much tied to the politics of the presidential race,” Grassley said in response to a farmer’s question about TPP and NAFTA. “Even though President Obama wants TPP passed, since both President Trump… I mean, Trump and Hillary have come out against it, one of them is going to be elected president, so I can’t predict that … If you got to present it to congress 90 days before we could pass it, let’s say 120 days before Obama leaves office, and he would obviously endorsed Hillary Clinton, wants her elected president, I see that it would be very difficult for him to put it before Congress in the middle of a general election.”
Grassley’s prediction reflects the growing view that the TPP is simply too difficult to move forward politically during the election. Doing so would put Clinton, who has come out against the trade deal, in an awkward position with the progressive left of the party, stridently opposed to it. And Trump’s staunch opposition to TPP – or any major multi-country trade agreement, including NAFTA – could mean that even if the typically pro-trade Republican Party wins, TPP still has no future.
“If I hear from agriculture people more than manufacturing people or service people, I usually hear that it’s good for agriculture. I think that it is good for agriculture,” Grassley noted. “That’s one part of it I studied. It’s a 3000-page document, and I haven’t gotten through it all. I’m going to wait until the president presents it to the Congress, because he’s got to present it 90 days before we vote on it.”
While Grassley has been publicly in favor of the TPP’s advancement in the past, he offered just minor praise on the agricultural component at this meeting. Notably, the farmer who asked the question sounded skeptical on trade deals.
“Well, I understand you’re a farmer, and we’re interested in the trade, but we’re so far behind in the balance of trading with other countries, it being negative,” the man said after Grassley’s response.
Most of the meeting focused on the usual concerns from a conservative-leaning audience, many of which thanked him for his stance on the Supreme Court. Near the end of the meeting, a constituent pressed Grassley about a recent Des Moines Register editorial criticizing his lack of public town halls in the state’s most-populated counties.
“That editorial was very unfair, and I’ll tell you how,” Grassley replied. “First of all, no senator has to hold any town meetings like I do. And most senators don’t, and I’m the first senator in the history of Iowa who started out years ago, going to every county, every year. I didn’t start that just because I was a senator, I did things like that when I was in the state legislature, individual towns.”
“I’m glad to do it,” he continued. “In fact, it’s very necessary to do a good job as a senator. People get the impression that when I was going to go to counties I was going to do like here, have an open town meeting. But that’s never been that way. I call them county meetings, but this happens to be a very open town meeting. But also when I get an invitation to go someplace and have me talk to their employees, then I usually find people who are not able to come to town meetings that get a chance to ask me questions.”
Grassley then listed off a number of factories he visited where he spoke with many workers.
“The idea is to make yourself accessible, let the audience set the agenda and not have anyone say we can talk about or not talk about. For instance, Senator Harkin didn’t do what I’m doing, but the Des Moines Register never raised any questions about Senator Harkin,” Grassley concluded.
Notably, he did not address the largest concern raised over his 99 county tour, that he has not held a single town hall meeting in 8 of the 10 largest counties in the past 6 years.
by Pat Rynard