House passes Mexico, Canada trade deal, giving Donald Trump a post-impeachment victory

  • In Business
  • 2019-12-19 22:07:38Z

WASHINGTON - One day after impeaching President Donald Trump on a mostly partisan vote, the House handed him a significant bipartisan victory Thursday by overwhelmingly approving a sweeping trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

Lawmakers voted 385 to 41 to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which puts in place rules for moving products among the three countries. The vote clears the way for the Senate to ratify the deal early next year.

Democrats and Republicans hailed the USMCA pact - a top legislative priority for Trump - as a victory for American farmers and workers and said it could serve as a model for trade agreements.

If Trump "wants to take credit for it, so be it," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

"This isn't about him," she said. "It's about American workers."

Republicans criticized Pelosi for holding up the agreement for nearly 14 months while Democrats negotiated a series of changes with the Trump administration. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., contended the delay weakened the administration's hand as it worked to negotiate a separate trade pact with China.

"I'm glad today is here," he said before the vote, "but the delay has hurt us."

The trade pact will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, a nearly quarter-century-old accord that essentially eliminated tariffs on most goods traded among the three countries.

Trump relentlessly ridiculed NAFTA as the "worst trade deal ever" when he was running for president three years ago, arguing it put American workers at a competitive disadvantage. Other critics, including Democrats, conceded NAFTA was outdated and needed to be revised.

What's new: From NAFTA to USMCA: Key changes on trilateral trade pact

After taking office, Trump reopened trade negotiations with Mexico and Canada. The three countries signed a revised trade pact late last December, but Pelosi refused to put it to a vote in the House until Democrats negotiated additional changes. An agreement struck last week between Pelosi and the Trump administration set the stage for Thursday's vote.

The new agreement "is a vast improvement over the first version shown to us by President Trump and his team," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Among the changes negotiated by Democrats are stronger provisions regarding the enforcement of labor and environmental standards. For example, the revised pact calls for monitors in Mexico City to make sure Mexico lives up to tough environmental laws, regulations and practices. A verification process will enable U.S. customs workers to block goods from entering the country if they have been produced in violation of those rules.

Senate delays: 'Total nonsense': Democrats rip McConnell on delaying USMCA vote until after impeachment trial

The trade agreement gives U.S. farmers greater access to Canada's agriculture market, puts in place a new chapter for dealing with e-commerce, dictates that a higher percentage of autos be made from parts manufactured in North America and requires that at least 40% of vehicle production be done by workers earning at least $16 per hour.

Stricken from the final agreement was a provision that Democrats argued would have made prescription drugs more expensive and increased the time it takes for generic versions of brand-name drugs to be made available to consumers.

Hoyer called the agreement "truly the product of bipartisanship" and said it showed that, even as lawmakers dealt with the divisive issue of impeachment, "we are still working hard to deliver on our promise to the American people to focus on economic opportunity."

"And in this instance," he said, "we are working together."

Michael Collins covers the White House. Reach him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.

Deja vu: New trade deal with Canada, Mexico borrows heavily from pact that Trump abandoned

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USMCA: House approves trade agreement with Mexico, Canada


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