Washington, D.C. – Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the ranking members of the Finance and Foreign Relations Committees, asked whether the White House interfered in decisions regarding trade preferences for Ukraine in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer yesterday.
The White House repeatedly delayed restoration of trade benefits to Ukraine at the same time Donald Trump was pressuring Ukraine to manufacture damaging information on Vice President Biden and his son, according to a report in the Washington Post.
“It would raise grave concerns both domestically and internationally if U.S. trade policy were used as a bargaining chip to achieve partisan political ends,” Wyden and Menendez wrote.
“To ensure that GSP remains an effective and legitimate program that encourages countries to adopt fair trade practices, it is imperative that decisions about beneficiary countries’ eligibility follow a transparent, accountable process that is free from partisan political considerations,” they continued.
According to the Washington Post, a White House official informed USTR in August 2019 that Donald Trump would block plans to cut tariffs for Ukrainian products under the Generalized System of Preferences trade program. The Post reported the White House blocked the restoration of GSP benefits again in October. The administration later restored the GSP status following the Post’s report.
The senators requested answers to the following questions by November 4:
1. Please provide a timeline of all actions taken by the Administration with respect to Ukraine’s status as a GSP beneficiary.
2. What was USTR’s rationale for recommending the restoration of certain GSP benefits for Ukraine in early summer 2019? Why did USTR withdraw this recommendation in August 2019?
3. Why did USTR resubmit the Ukraine GSP recommendation in early October 2019, and why did USTR withdraw it for a second time on October 17?
4. Did USTR submit its recommendation a third time before the President restored certain GSP benefits for Ukraine on October 25, 2019? Did USTR discuss this action with the President before he issued the proclamation?
5. Did former national security adviser John Bolton, his agent, or any other Administration official direct, recommend, or suggest that USTR withdraw the Ukraine GSP recommendation in August or October 2019 or any other time? If so, did Mr. Bolton or other official indicate why the President would oppose the restoration of certain GSP benefits to Ukraine?
6. Did President Trump ever ask you to convey to President Volodymyr Zelensky, other Ukrainian officials, or any other individuals, President Trump’s desire for assistance in investigating one of his political opponents or their family members, or unsubstantiated theories related to Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. election? Did you ever convey such a request? If so, please describe the circumstances of that exchange.
7. Did you or any personnel in the USTR office meet with President Trump’s personal agent Rudy Giuliani to discuss the U.S. trade relationship with Ukraine? If so, when and where did that discussion take place?
8. Did you or any personnel in the USTR office meet with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland to discuss the U.S. trade relationship with Ukraine? If so, when and where did that discussion take place?
Read the full letter here.
A web version of this release is available here.