Grassley, Wyden deliver competing floor statements on USMCA
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said House Democrats should bring up the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade for a vote, while Senate Finance ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on the Trump administration to keep improving the agreement.
In a floor speech, Grassley said, “I come to the Senate floor today to express a growing worry: The Democratically controlled House of Representatives looks increasingly less likely to act this year on USMCA. That threatens passage of the trilateral trade deal this Congress, as next year is a presidential election year.”
He added that Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer “more than any other trade representative I can recall, has gone above and beyond to accommodate the other party’s policy demands. For nearly a year now, he has worked with House Democrats to find solutions on labor, environment, intellectual property and enforcement.
“I’m beginning to wonder if Democrats are interested in reaching a compromise at all. It’s looking more like they would prefer to deprive the administration of a victory, even if it comes at the expense of the American people. That shouldn’t stand.
“If USMCA is not brought up for a vote in the House very soon, Democrats will have a price to pay next year when the American people will have a chance to weigh in. There’s little Americans dislike more in politics than zero-sum, oppose-the-other-party politics, no matter the cost.”
A few hours later, Wyden came to the floor and said, “I rise to call for this administration to obtain the best possible update to NAFTA, and to ensure that Americans reap real benefits from renegotiating this trade deal.
“I understand several of my colleagues are urging for an immediate vote on the president’s new NAFTA. Setting aside the fact that there have not yet been the hearings or markups necessary to allow that to happen, it would be a major mistake for this administration to seek a vote on a trade deal until it is a good deal.
“While the new NAFTA includes some important improvements to the existing agreement, there is still work to be done to get the best deal for American workers and consumers.
“Updating NAFTA, for example, means confronting the areas where older trade agreements continually have fallen short. Fighting to protect labor rights and the interests of working families. Preventing a race to the bottom when it comes to the environment. Making sure there is vigorous enforcement of our trade agreements, so that other countries can’t treat those deals as an empty document that gives them time and opportunities to rip off American jobs.
“I do have real concerns about current trade 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 the issue of protecting working families and labor rights.
“Now to my colleagues who say this deal must be passed in the name of certainty, I’d say this: During this overhaul, the original NAFTA remains in place. Workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses should not have to go to bed at night fearing that economic uncertainty will rob them of their livelihoods. The uncertainty only arises when the president acts out and makes impulsive threats regarding our trade relationships. When the president threatened new tariffs on Mexico this June over immigration policy, that creates far more uncertainty than taking the time necessary to get this deal right.
“American workers and farmers have already been hurt by the president’s impulses. More will get hurt if Trump’s threats and chaos cause the Congress to accept a bad deal on NAFTA.
“Passing a trade deal that would allow this president to unilaterally change trade rules and jerk around entire industries would be a substantial mistake that will produce more uncertainty. That’s not how you get to trade done right. Based on that, I have some real concerns about how the administration wants NAFTA 2.0 to be implemented.”
Wyden concluded, “I know a thing or two about passing trade agreements as the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. The key to passing a successful trade deal is making sure both sides are working in good faith to get the best deal for the American people.” ❖