AGRIPULSE, BILL TOMSON
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders gave the green light on Tuesday to a revised U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and, according to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a floor vote on the new North American pact could get a floor vote next week.
“I don’t think it’ll be this week, but we’re close,” Neal said about the timeline for a House vote and then added that he hoped it would be next week.
“Now, we need to focus on receiving implementing legislation from the administration and advancing it to the floor of the U.S. House — and I’ll keep pressing all players involved until that happens,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., one of the freshman moderates who had been pushing their fellow Democrats to act on the deal.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland are in Mexico today, where they are expected to sign off on the revised USMCA.
“USMCA is a big win for American workers and the economy, especially for our farmers and ranchers,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Tuesday. “The agreement improves virtually every component of the old NAFTA, and the agriculture industry stands to gain significantly.”
“While I am very encouraged by today’s breakthrough, we must not lose sight — the House and Senate need to work diligently to pass USMCA by Christmas,” he added.
House Democrats, led by Pelosi and Neal, have been in often contemptuous negotiations for months with Lighthizer to strengthen USMCA enforcement measures for labor and environmental standards. Democrats hope the enforcement language can bring about greater compliance in Mexico.
“This trade deal is much better than NAFTA, but in terms of our work here, it is infinitely better than initially proposed by the (Trump) administration,” Pelosi said, emphasizing Democrats role in the finalization of the three-country pact.
Mexico this year approved sweeping labor reforms, allowing for the formation of private unions and wide-scale contract renegotiation to improve the lives and salaries of workers, but House Democrats and U.S. union leaders have been adamant that enforcement provisions needed to be added to USMCA to make sure that the changes in Mexico remain in place for years to come. The goal is to stop U.S. companies from moving factories south of the border to take advantage of cheap nonunion labor.
“This is a transformative agreement — a template … for future agreements,” Neal told reporters Tuesday.
USMCA, at its core, keeps in place zero tariffs on virtually all agricultural trade between the three countries that are a result of NAFTA. But President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA.
“Parties to the (USMCA) form one of the most robust and dynamic trading blocs in the world with 14 million jobs associated with trade between these countries,” said Mary Coppola, a spokesperson for United Fresh. “For fresh fruits and vegetables, Mexico and Canada are viewed as our top trading partners. United Fresh supports this agreement and ask Congress to move swiftly in its passage.”
U.S. dairy and poultry producers are some of the biggest winners, gaining new access to the Canadian market.
“Dairy farmers across the Midwest appreciate the commitment and work of the administration and lawmakers to secure a better trade deal for U.S. dairy farmers,” said Brody Stapel, president of Edge. “Our farmers have been waiting in uncertainty for more than a year for USMCA to get done. So, it’s certainly good news to see the deal take this significant step forward. There are more steps to be taken, however, so we are not breathing a full sigh of relief.”