By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's administration has dropped plans for an executive order that will require all U.S. food aid to be transported on American ships, congressional and aid sources said on Friday.
Reuters reported on Thursday that Trump was considering issuing an order that would have increased to 100 percent the current requirement that 50 percent of such aid be transported on U.S.-flagged vessels.
Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stopped short of confirming information about the order but said he had discussed the issue with Trump and that he understands that the shift would have increased the cost of food aid and caused more people to starve.
"I had a good conversation today with President Trump," Corker said in a statement emailed to Reuters.
"As a businessman, he understands that expanding the cargo preference would substantially drive up the cost of food aid and cause more people to starve around the world," Corker said.
Corker has been pushing for years to reform the U.S. food aid program, including by eliminating the cargo preference. He said in his statement he looked forward to working with Congress and the administration to achieve "long overdue reforms."
After hearing about the possible executive order, several members of Congress called the White House to express their concern, congressional aides said.
The White House initiative, touted as part of Trump's "America First" effort, came against a background of the administration's budget proposal to slash foreign aid in general while increasing defense spending.
That plan was also met with stiff opposition in Congress, as lawmakers argued that "soft power" options such as food and medical aid and disaster recovery assistance can be effective tools in foreign policy that should not be discounted.
(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)