- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Senate approved President Trump’s rewrite of the North American trade deal Thursday, handing him a second trade victory in as many days while he fights to remain in office.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement breezed through on a bipartisan, 89-10 vote just minutes before House lawmakers marched into the chamber with articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump, who said the “USMCA” and Wednesday’s initial-stage deal with China show he’s delivering good things in the face of a Democratic push to oust him over his Ukraine dealings.

“We just made the two best trade deals in the history of our country,” Mr. Trump said from the Oval Office. “We are doing well.”

Passage of the USMCA checks off a major campaign promise that Mr. Trump made in 2016. At the time, he railed against trade agreements that many viewed as stacked against American workers.

His deal rewrites the rules of the road for digital trade, opens new markets to U.S. farmers, and steers higher wages and production to domestic auto workers. The House passed the deal in late December, after months of wrangling over labor standards and ways to enforce the deal.



“It was hard work, and it took way too long, but we did it — the USMCA is on its way to President Trump’s desk and final ratification,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy.

Business groups said the deal will prop up markets for everything from petroleum to footwear, while Mr. Trump urged key constituencies to take notice.

“The farmers are really happy with the new China Trade Deal and the soon to be signed deal with Mexico and Canada, but I hope the thing they will most remember is the fact that I was able to take massive incoming Tariff money and use it to help them get through the tough times!” Mr. Trump tweeted before the vote.

Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, touted the wins during a campaign stop in Florida.

“We’ve got a story to tell,” he told supporters in Tampa. “The last election was about promises made. This election’s about promises kept.”

Canada and Mexico must ratify the USMCA before it takes effect, though Republican senators took a victory lap before settling in for Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.

“The Senate will send this landmark agreement to the president’s desk. A big bipartisan win. And it comes the very same week as President Trump also signed phase one of his administration’s trade agreement with China,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “Quite a week of substantive accomplishments for the nation, for the president and for our international trade.”

Not everyone is happy. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer was among nine Democrats who voted against the deal. He said it didn’t do enough to address climate change.

The vote also split 2020 rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, with Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont — who rails against corporation-friendly deals and voted against NAFTA decades ago — rejecting the deal while Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota backed it.

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania was the only Republican to vote “no.” He’s slammed the deal for weeks, saying it will dampen free trade and raise the cost of automobiles.

“For the first time in American history, we’re enacting a trade agreement that restricts free trade and reduces economic growth,” Mr. Toomey said. “Unlike its predecessor NAFTA, USMCA contains many protectionist provisions that are designed to reduce the exchange of goods between the United States and Mexico.”

Replacing the 1994 North American Trade Agreement is one of Mr. Trump’s top priorities heading into the 2020 campaign season. He’s called NAFTA “perhaps the worst trade deal ever made.”

The administration finalized terms of the USMCA with Mexico and Canada in late 2018, though Democrats who swept into the House majority that year sat on the draft.

House Democrats demanded concessions that would protect American workers from being undercut by Mexican ones.

“Today, the Senate passed a USMCA that has been transformed by Democrats’ leadership for American workers, American patients and the environment,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “The flimsy enforcement proposed by the Trump administration has been rewritten by Democrats into the strongest enforcement mechanisms of any U.S. trade agreement.”

Democrats like Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said it will be easier for workers to call out Mexican factories that violate labor standards, and get them inspected and resolved.

Yet Mr. Schumer and other Democrats said the deal fell short in other areas.

“Instead of advancing global climate security by outlining binding and enforceable climate commitments from all three countries, the Trump administration provides significant incentives for manufacturers to move their business and their jobs from the U.S. to Mexico, where clean air and clean water regulations are much weaker,” Mr. Schumer said.

He said Democrats should be commended for fighting for workers, “but on the greatest issue facing our planet, addressing the climate crisis, the USMCA falls far too short.”

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