WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday announced agreement on a modified North American trade pact, handing President Donald Trump a major Capitol Hill win on the same day that Democrats announced their impeachment charges against him.
The California Democrat said the revamped U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is a significant improvement over the original North American Free Trade Agreement, crediting Democratic negotiators for winning stronger provisions on enforcing the agreement.
“There is no question of course that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA,” Pelosi said in announcing the agreement, saying the pact is “infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration.”
Trump said the revamped trade pact will “be great” for the United States.
“It will be the best and most important trade deal ever made by the USA. Good for everybody – Farmers, Manufacturers, Energy, Unions – tremendous support. Importantly, we will finally end our Country’s worst Trade Deal, NAFTA!,” the president said in a tweet.
In Mexico City, Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Monday night that there would be a meeting of the three countries’ negotiating teams Tuesday “to announce the advances achieved” on the trade agreement. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is slated to appear.
NAFTA eliminated most tariffs and other trade barriers involving the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Critics, including Trump, labor unions and many Democratic lawmakers, branded the pact a job killer for the United States because it encouraged factories to move south of the border, capitalize on low-wage Mexican workers and ship products back to the U.S. duty-free.
“I think the vote’s going to be pretty good,” said No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer, D-Md., a veteran party whip. “There’s a general agreement — not total agreement, it’s not unanimity — that USMCA is better. It’s an improvement. And to the extent that Trumka and labor comes out and says that this is an improvement, I think that that will be unifying.”
The pact contains provisions designed to nudge manufacturing back to the United States. For example, it requires that 40% to 45% of cars eventually be made in countries that pay autoworkers at least $16 an hour — that is, in the United States and Canada and not in Mexico.
The trade pact picked up some momentum after Mexico in April passed a labor-law overhaul required by USMCA. The reforms are meant to make it easier for Mexican workers to form independent unions and bargain for better pay and working conditions, narrowing the gap with the United States.
The end-stage talks focused on provisions to improve the enforcement of the accord.
National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement welcoming the announced deal to move forward the U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement:
Manufacturers support the USMCA, and we are encouraged that the administration and House Democrats have forged a path forward, with the support of Canada and Mexico as well. To be sure, as with any agreement of this nature, not every objective that we sought was met. For instance, we are extremely disappointed that the agreement missed an opportunity to set the gold standard for the protection of American-made lifesaving innovations and inventions. Protection of intellectual property is a key principle and critical for the long-term vitality of the manufacturing industry and the men and women who work in our sector.
Nevertheless, a ratified USMCA will deliver increased certainty for manufacturers—especially for the 2 million manufacturing workers whose jobs depend on North American trade.
This has been a long process, and manufacturers will continue to work closely with the administration and both the House and Senate to approve the USMCA by the end of this year. We deeply appreciate the hard work of the Trump administration, particularly the United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Bob Lighthizer, as well as leaders of both parties in Congress who have brought us to this point and continue to listen to manufacturers.
Also, Greg Ugalde, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Torrington, Conn., issued the following statement:
NAHB commends President Trump and House Democrats for working together in a bipartisan spirit to reach an agreement on approving the USMCA trade deal, which represents a win for the U.S. economy, a win for American jobs and a win for housing affordability. Many of the products that go into American homes come from Mexico or Canada. By moving swiftly to ratify the USMCA, Congress will help to address the nation’s housing affordability crisis.