USMCA, the new North American trade deal, clears U.S. House
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A top 2016 campaign promise for President Donald Trump cleared a major hurdle Thursday.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the U.S./Mexico/Canada Agreement, the trade deal Trump struck with two of the nation’s largest trading partners. USMCA had strong Republican support on Capitol Hill for months, but only recently won approval from Democrats.
“Mexico/Canada trade is something that impacts people on a day-to-day basis,” said Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.).
“This is a jobs bill,” said Rep. Mike Kelly. “We’re talking a minimum of somewhere around 175,000 jobs.”
The rare bipartisan vote – 385-41 – comes as a victory for Trump, one day after he was impeached by House Democrats in the Ukraine scandal. But top Democrats – who agreed to terms with the White House last week following a year of talks – are calling it a win for the American worker.
“There is no question, of course, that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last week when Democrats announced their support of USMCA.
“The first time we've had any agreement like this, an enforceable agreement,” Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin told reporters Thursday. “These are things that people have been working on for 20 years.”
USMCA modernizes the 1990s-era North American Free Trade Agreement by adding guidelines for things like digital commerce. But it also provides an economic shot in the arm for manufacturers who lost jobs under NAFTA; and for struggling dairy farmers in the U.S., allowing for new access to the Canadian markets.
“Which has been really restricted to our exports to date,” explained Shawna Morris, vice president of trade policy for the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council. “So elements like that are why we are so excited about this agreement.”
Overall, Canada and Mexico are America’s top agricultural export markets totaling $40 billion in sales, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Nearly one-third of all U.S. food exports go north and south of the border, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Locally, $15 billion worth of Pennsylvania goods and $20 billion worth of New York goods are exported to the two nations each year.
The trade deal now heads to the Senate. But lawmakers aren’t expected to vote on it until January, possibly after the impeachment trial is complete.