Trump promotes USMCA approval in congress; leaders seem to agree
At a Rose Garden news conference Sept. 24, President Donald Trump promoted the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, and most congressional leaders seemed to favor approval, although a decision on approving the new pact isn’t scheduled to be made until the next congress comes into session.
“It’s my great honor to announce that we have successfully completed negotiations on a brand-new deal to terminate and replace NAFTA and the NAFTA trade agreement with an incredible new U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement called USMCA,” Trump said.
“Once approved by congress, this new deal will be the most modern, up-to-date and balanced trade agreement in the history of our country, with the most advanced protections for workers ever developed.”
The president continued, “This new deal is an especially great victory for our farmers. Our farmers have gone through a lot over the last 15 years. They’ve been taken advantage of by everybody. Prices have gone way down.
“And we’re working on some other deals that are going to make them very happy, also. But this a very, very big deal for our farmers. Mexico and Canada will be opened up a lot more than they are now, and I think there’ll be a better spirit between the three countries, which is important for our farmers.
“The agreement will give our farmers and ranchers far greater access to sell American-grown produce in Mexico and in Canada. The deal includes a substantial increase in our farmers’ opportunities to export American wheat, poultry, eggs and dairy, including milk, butter, cheese, yogurt and ice cream, to name a few.”
REACTION ON THE HILL
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., noted he has been a critic of NAFTA and said “The president deserves praise for taking large steps to improve it,” Market Watch reported.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who is retiring and will not be in office next year when congress is expected to vote on the agreement, said, “The United States benefits when all three countries are held to the high standards laid out in Trade Promotion Authority.”
“That’s why I’m pleased that the Trump administration succeeded in bringing Canada into the fold to reach a trilateral agreement,” Ryan said. “I look forward to reviewing the text of the agreement, particularly the dairy provisions, and engaging with members and stakeholders on the details.”
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, called the announcement ”important and welcome.”
“Ambassador (Robert) Lighthizer has achieved many new and winning provisions to increase our ability to sell more American goods and services, as President Trump promised,” Brady said.
“We will also look closely at the sunset and dispute settlement provisions to determine if they increase certainty and help sell more made-in-America goods and services.
“I look forward to continuing to consult with the Trump administration on these important questions.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he was “pleased to see the U.S., Canada, and Mexico have successfully delivered a renegotiated NAFTA for consideration, and I am eager to review the details.”
Roberts noted that since 1994, when the original NAFTA went into force, the value of U.S. agricultural exports to Canada has increased by 271 percent and to Mexico by 305 percent.
“That is no small impact on rural America, as well as the American economy,” Roberts said. “This trade pact will provide our farmers and ranchers with much needed export market certainty and will strengthen the relationship with two of our most important trading partners.”
Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she was encouraged.
“I’ve said from the beginning that given NAFTA’s importance to our economy in Michigan, a modernization is long overdue,” Stabenow said.
“I’m encouraged that there have been positive steps forward. I’ll be reviewing the details of the agreement and speaking with workers, farmers and businesses in Michigan to determine whether it’s best for our state. The goal must be to export our products, not our jobs.”
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, said, “President Trump promised to deliver a modernized NAFTA agreement that was better for America’s farmers, ranchers, businesses and workers — and I’m hopeful this newly announced agreement will do just that.”
“The initial prospects released by the administration are encouraging. Between eliminating Canada’s ‘Class 6 and 7’ dairy pricing policies and removing Canada’s discriminatory grain grading standards, many of the key requests from production agriculture seem to have been addressed,” Conaway said.
“My staff and I continue reviewing the details, but I look forward to working with President Trump and his team to ensure that a strong, modern agreement among our three nations can be finalized as quickly as possible.”
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said, “I am pleased to see the NAFTA renegotiation take one step closer to a possible conclusion, and I look forward to reviewing the agreement in full as Congress takes up its passage.”
“Dairy and poultry are huge concerns for me, and I am encouraged with the access and provisions it appears we’ve secured in this agreement.
“While this agreement does not end Canada’s supply management policies, this agreement includes provisions that will help dairy farmers in Minnesota and nationwide with less trade distorting exports during the current downturn in the farm economy.
“I hope the administration will use the momentum from this NAFTA deal to make progress in bringing the trade war with China to a productive end.”
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said, “This new deal increases market certainty for our farmers, provides strong and effective protection for American intellectual property and strengthens overall relations with our North American trading partners.”
“I look forward to seeing the details of this new agreement. I’m optimistic for its positive impact for Iowa farmers, agricultural workers and manufacturers.”
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who is in a tough re-election race against Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said, “The new agreement is good news for wheat growers who would no longer face an unfair Canadian grading system — a change I’ve been pushing for — but it’s disappointing the concerns of cattle ranchers and potato farmers were not addressed.”
“Additionally, this agreement doesn’t address the steel and aluminum tariffs which are still putting North Dakota’s energy industry and agriculture manufacturing equipment companies in jeopardy.
“Throughout the negotiation, I’ve been working with North Dakota agriculture producers to help them maintain their relationships with their buyers in Canada and Mexico, and I hope we can now move forward in a way that’s good for North Dakota’s ag economy.” ❖