WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, spoke on the Senate floor on the importance of passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democrat colleagues to support this trade agreement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says work continues on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, while impeachment proceedings move forward in the House of Representatives.
Still, a fear persists outside of Washington, D.C., that USMCA may not reach the finish line because of the full schedule in Washington. Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Pelosi reaffirmed that House Democrats are working towards a solution, saying, “we hope to be on a path to yes.” Pelosi says Democrats are still waiting on assurances about enforceability.
Those in Washington, both Democrats and Republicans, remain optimistic House Democrats can reach an agreement with the Trump administration to pass USMCA. The Trump administration threatened when the impeachment inquiry was announced that “House Democrats destroyed any chances of legislative progress,” including USMCA, which will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mexico’s President recently pledged to sign a letter to U.S. lawmakers urging passage of the agreement. Mexico ratified USMCA this summer, and Canada is expected to do so following its federal elections later this month.
Vice President Mike Pence spent time early this week promoting the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement while calling on Congress to pass the trade deal. Pence penned an editorial in the Arizona Daily Star promoting the trade agreement.
The Vice President also toured a Tyson Foods facility in Tennessee. Meanwhile, in a White House statement, Pence says USMCA will add more than $68 billion to the U.S. economy and create another 176,000 American jobs. That includes nearly 50,000 good manufacturing jobs. Pence says, “to keep the momentum going, Congress must pass a trade deal that President Trump negotiated,” with Mexico and Canada. The House Democrats working group spent time in Mexico at the start of the week, focusing on enforcement of labor provisions included in the agreement.
Democrats in the House are negotiating with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to reach a deal they can approve. Mexico ratified the agreement this summer, and Canada is expected to ratify the agreement following its federal election later this month.
House Democrats are wrapping up a two-day trip to Mexico to discuss the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Led by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, the visit comes as the Democratic Working Group on NAFTA 2.0 “continues to engage in productive discussions with the U.S. Trade Representative regarding important improvements to the agreement,” according to Neal.
Representative Neal also leads the working group on USMCA. The lawmakers are meeting with representatives from the Mexican Government as well as local workers, focusing on enforcement of the agreement regarding labor standards in Mexico.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week maintained “we are making progress” on reaching an agreement to pass the trade deal. The group forwarded a counter proposal to the White House just over a week ago.
Lawmakers Joining Neil on the trip include Representatives Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, Dan Kildee of Michigan, Jimmy Panetta of Jimmy Gomez of California. The group maintains a commitment to reaching an agreement with the White House to pass the trade agreement.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues its pressure for Congress to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada-Agreement. In a letter to all House of Representative members, the organization says the U.S. “cannot afford for enactment of USMCA to fall by the wayside.” The letter coins the term “No Rest Recess,” in calling on lawmakers to pass the agreement, following the current two-week recess.
The Chamber says USMCA is critical to the economic future of the United States because it will preserve and strengthen U.S. trade ties, ensuring farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses continue to have access to the Canadian and Mexican markets. The future of the agreement rests with House Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Wednesday, Pelosi said the House is “making progress” on the agreement. Pelosi says the USMCA working group submitted its counter-proposal to the White House last week, adding the “the quiet you hear is progress,” regarding negotiations with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Pelosi has maintained that the House impeachment inquiry will not stall progress on the agreement.
Much of Washington, D.C., is consumed with questions about Ukraine and the impeachment inquiry. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly scolded Democrats’ handling of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. Politico says McConnell wants House Democrats to pass the North American trade agreement, noting that “the time for excuses is over.”
Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell said Democrats continued objections to the new pact are nothing more than “heel-dragging.” He says the delay is because of the House impeachment inquiry and related investigations. “Canada, Mexico, and millions of Americans are waiting for Speaker Pelosi to remember that serving the public interest requires more than just picking fights with the President,” McConnell says.
His comments come after House Democrats pledged last week that the newly-launched impeachment inquiry will not affect their ability to work with the administration to negotiate changes in four key areas of the agreement with our North American trade partners. Those areas include labor, the environment, access to medicines, and enforcement.
A top American Farm Bureau official said AFB is determined, regardless of the impeachment fight, to see the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal across the finish line.
AFB Executive Director Dale Moore said whether it’s impeachment or some other Washington distraction, his team will spare no effort to win USMCA for America’s farmers and ranchers
“Whatever else is going on in Congress, whether it’s the impeachment inquiry that’s popped up on the radar, the budget process that always dominates, this time of the year…again, our focus and our push and our urging, encouraging to folks on Capitol Hill, is, let’s get USMCA done,” Moore said.
Moore argued even the clock and a two-week Congressional recess now won’t hinder AFB’s all-out effort to win a trade deal worth billions for U.S. agriculture and those who depend on it.
But impeachment is now the “900-pound gorilla in the room.” Lawmakers on both sides and President Trump himself fear USMCA could become collateral damage. Still, Moore believes USMCA is a political ‘winner’ for both parties.
Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar said he expects Congress to vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement in either November or December.
The Hagstrom Report says that House Democrats consider that vote to be contingent on Mexico agreeing to spend more money on enforcing labor provisions in the agreement. Cuellar is one of the more vocal Democrats advocating for passing USMCA.
At a recent speaking engagement, Cuellar said he spoke with both House Leader Nancy Pelosi and the White House about the prospects for USMCA since Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry on President Donald Trump. He expected both the impeachment and USMCA approval would be kept on separate tracks.
Cuellar has cautiously endorsed Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry.
“The last couple of days have kind of complicated things, but we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said.
What House Democrats want is for Mexico to budget enough money to enforce the labor provisions in the agreement.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is doing a “very good job” on labor issues. He added the Mexican enforcement budget is still the key to getting House support.
Trade talks continue this week between the U.S. and China as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement inches closer to reality. President Donald Trump says talks last week between the U.S. and China “were very positive.”
Negotiations will continue this week ahead of high-level talks planned sometime next month. A Chinese delegation canceled U.S. farm visits last week, but apparently not because of the ongoing trade negotiations. Officials say the trips were canceled to avoid excessive media attention. Meanwhile, Democrats in the House of Representatives plan to submit a counter proposal to the White House this week on changes to USMCA, according to Politico.
House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal says the USCMA working group would meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer this week to “intensify the discussion.” Neal is hopeful the group and Lighthizer can “strike a deal soon,” that allows the House to vote on the agreement. Neal says the concerns raised by Democrats are not resolved but added the Trump administration has “made substantial progress.”
WOOD RIVER, NEB. – It’s time for Congress to pass legislation to enact the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA) and bring home a “win” for Nebraska agriculture. That’s the message relayed by Nebraska leaders who gathered to call for USMCA passage at Husker Harvest Days, Wed., Sept. 11. The Trump administration has negotiated a trade deal with the two countries, but Congress must act for the provisions of the agreement to go into effect.
The USMCA deal is critical to Nebraska agriculture as purchases by Mexico and Canada account for more than 21 percent of Nebraska’s total agriculture exports. The trade relationship with the two countries is also vital to the state’s economy as agriculture trade with the two nations supports nearly 54,000 Nebraska jobs.
The USMCA would replace the more than 20-year-old, North American Free Trade Agreement between the countries, making a good relationship even better. The new deal would maintain market access for Nebraska commodities like corn, soybeans, beef, and pork, while improving access for Nebraska wheat and dairy products. The deal also updates the former agreement to address agriculture biotechnology to support innovation and reduce trade-distorting policies. In addition, USMCA creates a more rigorous process for establishing trade distorting geological indicators for agriculture products and strengthens science-based measures to protect human, animal, and plant health while improving the flow of trade.
With members of Congress returning from the August recess, the Nebraska leaders urged swift action to secure the USMCA deal.
“A combination of flooding, low commodity prices, and trade negotiations have made for a very tough time for agriculture recently. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is critical for our country and growing key trade relationships. Now it’s time for Congress to step up and do their part by approving the USMCA.”
- Governor Pete Ricketts
“USMCA passage is not only important because of the immediate and direct benefits it will bring to our state’s farmers and ranchers, but with the climate we’re operating in today, we need to show the rest of the world that the United States is open for business and we’re serious about getting deals done with our trade partners. The success of Nebraska agriculture relies heavily on our ability to reach the international customers who want to buy Nebraska agriculture products; and there are plenty of them around the world.”
- Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president
“Mexico and Canada are key partners with Nebraska’s corn industry. Mexico is our top customer of Nebraska corn and Canada is our second largest export market for ethanol. Once distillers grains, livestock and other agricultural commodities start getting added into the mix, it’s easy to see why USMCA is so important to Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers.”
- Dan Nerud, Nebraska Corn Growers Association president
“USMCA is poised to bring improvements to the North American dairy trade by expanding exports and bringing down trade barriers, benefiting America’s dairy farmers and processors. Mexico and Canada are the dairy industry’s number one and number two largest volume international exporters, with Mexico taking 25 percent of all of the United States dairy exports. USMCA enables the Nebraska dairy industry to continue to export ice cream and butter into those markets, generating more demand and higher pay price for our milk here at home.”
- Bob Larson, Nebraska State Dairy Association, board of directors
“Mexico is one of the largest purchasers of both US and Nebraska wheat. A fully implemented USMCA would greatly benefit our state’s wheat farmers.”
- Von Johnson, Nebraska Wheat Board, board of directors
“In today’s trade environment the passage of the USMCA is of great importance. With trade equalization moving forward with Japan and other booming markets around the world the passage of USMCA would increase the momentum to trade with other countries and boost all sectors of our agricultural economy.”
- Tim Chancellor, Nebraska Pork Producers Association
“USMCA will benefit U.S. and Nebraska soybean growers as well as the larger U.S. agriculture and food industry. Over the last 25 years, U.S. food and ag exports to Canada and Mexico have more than quadrupled under NAFTA. Mexico is the number two buyer of Nebraska soybeans and soybean products.”
- Robert Johnston, Nebraska Soybean Association, president
“Nebraska’s cattle producers have weathered their fair share of storms this past year. Now is NOT the time to pull the rug from under the feet of our state’s largest industry. If access to these top markets were suddenly shut off, our red meat exports would drastically decline. This would pose serious consequences for Nebraska’s economy. We urge Congress to act quickly and get USMCA across the finish line.”
- Mike Drinnin, Nebraska Cattlemen president
“USMCA reinvigorates and modernizes the trade relationships with our neighbors in Canada and Mexico. The agreement also provides critical updates that benefit growers all across the agricultural spectrum. The Nebraska Sorghum Producers Association urges congress to move swiftly forward in passing the USMCA.”
- Nate Blum, Nebraska Grain Sorghum
“Nebraska’s own Clayton Yeutter was instrumental in opening up trade with our neighbor Canada when he served as U.S. Trade Representative in the 1980s. I’m proud that our Clayton Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance at UNL helps educate students and the public about the importance of trade. In 2017, Nebraska ag exports totaled $6.4 billion and translated into $8.14 billion in additional economic activity. Opening up access to our agricultural products is vital to Nebraska’s future.”
- Ronnie Green, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor