The Trump administration struck a deal with House Democrats Tuesday for an updated U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the deal, which followed months of heated negotiations between the U.S. Trade Representative and House Democrats, as a “victory for America’s workers.” Bipartisanship, however, isn’t exactly sweeping the Capitol and the movement on the trade front came the same morning the House issued articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
The House Ways and Means Committee, whose chairman Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., helped lead negotiations for the Democrats, described pushing for stronger protections for workers and enforcement oversight — including a process to inspect questionable factories — under the terms of the deal.
Pelosi said Democrats broadly negotiated for provisions that addressed labor, environmental issues and drug prices.
“There is no question, of course, that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA,” Pelosi said at the press conference. “But in terms of our work here, it is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration.”
At Tuesday’s press conference, Neal also recounted meeting with Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, describing them as “good partners” who generally supported the updated terms of the deal. The USMCA had been signed in November last year by Trump, Trudeau and former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, though it now requires the approval of legislators.
In October, President López Obrador said Mexico was already taking steps toward the kind of labor reforms envisioned in an updated trade deal, including by increasing the country’s minimum wage this year.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer lauded the deal as a “model” for future U.S. trade deals.
“After working with Republicans, Democrats, and many other stakeholders for the past two years, we have created a deal that will benefit American workers, farmers, and ranchers for years to come,” Lighthizer said in a statement.
Apparel and retail industry groups generally praised the deal as supporting the annual textile and apparel trade between the three countries, which the National Council of Textile Organizations, a textile industry group, said was in the $20 billion range.
Last year, the U.S. exported $12 billion of textiles to Canada and Mexico, according to NCTO.
“We are happy to hear a deal has been reached that should help pave the way for USMCA to move forward, and we will continue to work for congressional passage on a clean bill,” said Kim Glas, NCTO’s president and chief executive officer.
The retail trade associations American Apparel & Footwear Association and the National Retail Federation also both heralded the deal, and called for its swift passage.
“Retailers are very encouraged by this positive step forward to approve the USMCA, which will provide key updates to the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement and promote long-term economic growth,” said NRF president and ceo Matthew Shay.
AAFA president and ceo Rick Helfenbein said the group would review the final details of the deal and discuss it with its members, and emphasized the need for the “transition from NAFTA to USMCA occur smoothly, to ensure that there are no negative impacts as the business community comes up to speed with the new rules.”
And President Trump tweeted his characteristic assent to the deal.
“America’s great USMCA Trade Bill is looking good. It will be the best and most important trade deal ever made by the USA. Good for everybody — Farmers, Manufacturers, Energy, Unions — tremendous support. Importantly, we will finally end our Country’s worst Trade Deal, NAFTA!”