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We should promote trade, not stifle it, Sen. Shelby says

Trade agreements need to be looked at, but at the end of the day, the United States needs to be involved in trade because it "makes things happen," Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told CNBC on Thursday.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to scrap deals and slap tariffs on countries like China once he takes office.

"A lot of people believe, and I do at times, that some of our trade agreements are lopsided and we've got to look at them. But that doesn't mean that we're going to put a tariff on everything. What we should do is promote trade in the world, not try to stifle it," Shelby said in an interview with "Power Lunch."

Trump's protectionist talk has sparked concerns around the world about possible trade wars. However, earlier this week, American financier Anthony Scaramucci, tapped to be an assistant to Trump in the office for public liaison, said he believes the new administration "does not want to have a trade war."

"[We] want to have free and fair trade," he said at an event at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are working on a plan for a border adjustment tax as part of its overall corporate tax plan. Trump had called the tax "too complicated" in a Wall Street Journal interview earlier in the week. However, on Tuesday, he told Axios the idea is "certainly something that is going to be discussed."

Shelby told CNBC he hasn't seen the details on that tax yet.

"We haven't seen the particulars yet. It's a little early. But I think a healthy debate — put it out in the open — let's see what Congress, how they feel about it and what we think it will do."


Trump's Cabinet nominees

Meanwhile, Shelby believes that there's a chance that all of Trump's nominees will be confirmed.

"If the Republicans stay together, which I hope they will, we will confirm every nominee, but you never know what's going to happen up here," said Shelby, who is the chair of the Senate Banking committee.

On Thursday, Treasury secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin spent the day in front of the Senate Finance committee, defending himself against attacks by Senate Democrats who blasted him for alleged predatory home foreclosures in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Mnuchin previously worked as a partner at Goldman Sachs and co-owned OneWest Bank, the former IndyMac that was failing after the mortgage crisis.

Shelby isn't concerned about Mnuchin's banking past.

"Sure this man has been in the banking business, investment banking and others, but my gosh that could be a plus to him."

He was also unconcerned that Munchin took some positions in the hearing that may run counter to conservative Republican thinking. For example, Munchin said he didn't think the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should go away. Instead, he had an issue with the way it was funded. He also called Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "important entities."

"I do not like government-sponsored enterprises. I would differ with the man on that. But Congress will wind up making a lot of policy. I think sometimes differences of opinion are healthy for the debate," Shelby said.

— CNBC's Matt Clinch and Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.