Corteva, Vilsack testify in favor of USMCA; labor, Wyden, Toomey raise issues
Corteva Agriscience CEO James Collins and U.S. Dairy Export Council President and CEO Tom Vilsack told the Senate Finance Committee today that Congress should approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade.
But a labor representative, Senate Finance ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., expressed reservations about the pact, which would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
”I’m here today to address the critical need to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to support employment and economic growth in farming communities across the United States,” Collins said.
“USMCA features disciplines critical to Corteva: not only preserved market access, but protection of biotechnology innovation and intellectual property and enhanced sanitary/phytosanitary standards,” he said.
Vilsack, who served as the agriculture secretary in the Obama adminisitration, said, “In addition to locking in a zero-tariff relationship with Mexico and increasing market access to Canada, USMCA also reforms unfair pricing practices in Canada and addresses other nontariff barriers, like Geographic Indication requirements, that threaten U.S. sales.”
“All told, USMCA will provide a $314 million-a-year boost to the dairy industry, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission,” Vilsack said.
Michael Wessel, appearing on behalf of labor unions, said, “Organized labor wants NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) fixed.”
“Much work remains: The current USMCA is not good enough because it does not include sufficient improvements to ensure that the terms of trade in North America will change, key among them the lack of swift and certain enforcement mechanisms to replace the current broken system in which labor complaints languish for years and labor abuses by our trading partners go unaddressed, seemingly condoned by Republican and Democratic administrations alike,” Wessel said.
Wyden said, “I have concerns about enforcement because the new NAFTA carries over the weak enforcement system of the old NAFTA. It’s too easy on trade cheats, and it’s not good enough for American workers — particularly on labor rights.”
“During this overhaul, the original NAFTA remains in place,” Wyden said. “Workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses should not have to fear that economic uncertainty will cost them their livelihoods.
“It’s a problem when the president acts out and makes impulsive threats regarding our trade relationships. American workers and farmers have already been hurt by the president’s impulses, and more will get hurt if Trump threats and chaos cause the Congress to accept a bad deal on NAFTA.”
Toomey broke with other Republicans in urging his colleagues to “think hard” before supporting USMCA, arguing that it is inferior to NAFTA, Politico reported.
Toomey cited the sunset provision, reduced protections for American investors, and higher costs for auto manufacturers, according to the report.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said, “The time for modernizing NAFTA had come, and USMCA does exactly that.”