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Stephen Claeys Comments on Impact of Sen. Hatch’s Retirement on U.S. Trade Policy

January 4, 2018

Stephen J. Claeys, a partner in Wiley Rein’s International Trade Practice, was quoted in a January 3 Law360 article regarding the impact that Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) recently announced retirement could have on U.S. trade policy. As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Hatch is considered an influential lawmaker on trade policy and has been a fierce advocate for trade liberalization, according to the article.

“Generally, I wouldn’t expect a big change,” Mr. Claeys said. “Chairman Hatch has long been a supporter of free trade and trade agreements ... but in a general sense I don’t think this will result in some shift from what already exists for the usual congressional Republican position of being for trade and wanting to expand trade.”

A top issue for whoever succeeds Sen. Hatch as chairman will be the Trump Administration’s current effort to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Many potential successors to chair the Finance Committee include senators from agriculture-heavy states, according to Mr. Claeys, who noted that lawmakers representing such states “have been the most vocal about doing no harm to NAFTA.” 

Another policy area that could be affected by Sen. Hatch’s departure is the enforcement of intellectual property rights in trade agreements. “He is a vigorous defender of intellectual property rights and making sure they are as robust as possible and protect as much as possible in trade agreements,” Mr. Claeys said. “Sen. Hatch brings a higher degree of engagement on the issue than your average Republican member of Congress.”