Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the longest-serving Senate Republican, said Tuesday the United States must remain at the forefront of global challenges to retain its dominant position in the global order and preserve American ideals.
Reflecting on his more than four decades of service in Congress, Hatch warned an audience at the Hoover Institution in Washington, D.C., against a trend toward protectionist trade and security policies as a threat to U.S. national security. He said history has made clear that policies curbing free trade "corrode" the U.S. economy and global standing, leaving potential openings for adversaries.
"The existing American-led global order certainly did not ensue from a reluctance to engage internationally or commercially," Hatch said. "It also did not come from a single moment of engagement. Rather, the fact that we have had a stable and open global order for more than 70 years is largely because America has remained critically present and involved in advancing its leadership responsibilities abroad, which ultimately helps the nation flourish at home."
"I'm concerned that U.S. disengagement from the world, particularly when it comes to security and trade, could result in a more unstable and less open world," he continued. "On the home front, protectionism and economic nationalism will lead to a less robust economy and fray international relationships, especially with our allies, that jeopardize American security. The risk of American retreat from global leadership must not be ignored. This involves moving away from excessively ideological tribal or partisan postures, a task that is not always easy to accept."
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Hatch has often deviated from President Trump on trade policy. Though generally muted in his criticism, Hatch pursued legislation earlier this year to curb Trump's trade authority in an attempt to pressure him on tariffs.
Even so, Hatch billed himself Tuesday as a "staunch" supporter of the president and said he was confident the administration would ultimately pursue free trade policies.
"America can ill afford a lurch back to protectionism, globalization, and economic decline," he said. "I am confident that our nation's leaders will ultimately do the right thing by resisting protectionism and promoting free markets and free trade."
Hatch, who will retire in January, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last week in honor of his congressional service. He will be succeeded by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.