One week after House of Representatives Democrats and the White House indicated significant progress had been reached on the possibility of signing the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into law, the a House vote today made it official, by a 385-41 margin. The Senate is likely to vote on the measure in early January.
USMCA, in various ways, is actually based on the same rules and procedures and most of the same products, as the current NAFTA deal, which took effect in 1994. Analysts say that there are some great environmental and labor regulation improvements, and it incentivizes domestic production of cars and trucks. It’s also the first free trade agreement that has ever included intellectual property protections, which are very timely given the current trade wars that were triggered by the alleged theft of American intellectual property by China and other nations.
A key sticking point in USCMA negotiations has been related to concerns on behalf of House Democrats regarding enforcement tools for labor and environmental standards under the new deal, which they have been working on with the White House for more than a year, noted a CNBC report.
The call to move forward on USMCA has been voiced repeatedly, as noted in a September letter from former United States Secretaries of Agriculture going back the President Reagan’s Administration–– Secretary Tom Vilsack (2009-2017) Secretary Ed Schafer (2008–2009) Secretary Mike Johanns (2005–2007) Secretary Ann Veneman (2001–2005) Secretary Dan Glickman (1995–2001) Secretary Mike Espy (1993–1994) Secretary John R. Block (1981–1986)––to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The former Secretaries of Agriculture were direct in making their collective case for USCMA to be inked into law, saying that the U.S. needs a strong and reliable trade deal with its top two customers for U.S. agriculture products, adding that USMCA will provide certainty in the North American market for the U.S. farm sector and rural economy.
The letter also explained that the former Secretaries believe USCMA will benefit American agriculture and related industries.
In October, Neil Bradley, U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president and chief policy officer, said that time is of the essence for Congress to move forward and enact USMCA sooner than later.
Bradley noted that the September edition of the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Report on Business posted its lowest reading in more than ten years [and has not shown growth for the last four months through November], which, he said, extends the trend the U.S. Chamber started noticing at the end of the summer.
“We started to see weakness on the business side of the economy, in contrast to the consumer side, which runs the risk of an economic downturn and, if not sufficiently corrected, ultimately there is the possibility of a recession,” he said.
Today’s news received a sound endorsement from American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear.
“Even during one of the most politically contentious times in our history, USMCA is proof that Washington isn’t completely broken,” said Spear in a statement. “Bipartisanship — and perhaps more notably, a sense of duty — still lives. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Trump deserve equal praise for finding the common ground to see this important trade deal through for the good of our country. By the nature of our work, truckers know the significance of this victory. Cross-border trade with our neighbors has become a cornerstone of the American economy. Strengthening this relationship as USMCA does helps secure our economy’s foundation and ensures we will remain competitive in the global marketplace for decades to come.”
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