Senator Sees Food, Trade as National Security Concerns

Jul 12, 2016

Iowa's senior senator is putting national security concerns near the top of his agenda.

Republican Chuck Grassley is introducing a bill to make the U.S. Department of Agriculture a permanent member of a committee that reviews foreign companies' efforts to buy U.S. businesses. 

Grassley says already a Chinese firm has a major foothold in the pork industry here and more food and agriculture mergers and acquisitions are pending.

"The transactions that are occurring today will shape the food industry for decades to come," Grassley says. "We need to be thinking strategically about who will control our food supply tomorrow."

Grassley says adding the agriculture department to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. will ensure "we don't make the mistake of selling too much control of our food supply to possible enemies."

And Grassley says trade deals also potentially impact national security

The senator supports the 12 member Trans-Pacific Partnership, as does President Obama. But with both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the two presumptive presidential candidates, opposing the trade deal, Grassley is worried failure to sign onto it will threaten regional stability in Asia.

Grassley says some Asian countries poised to sign the TPP took a deliberate stand toward the United States and away from their giant neighbor, China.

"That makes it not just an economic issue for the United States, that makes it a national security issue," Grassley says, "because (to) the extent to which we've got friends in Southeast Asia that are fearful of China, and we can join with them and encourage them, I think it's going to put us in a better position of containing China."

Grassley sited Chinese efforts to claim islands in the South China Sea as evidence the smaller countries genuinely have reason to worry.

If the U.S. walks away from the deal, which seems likely if Obama opts not to bring it to Congress before he leaves office, Grassley says the country could lose a strategic advantage in Asia.