Round two of NAFTA is a go.
The U.S. Senate passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement by an 89-10 vote on Thursday, paving the way for President Trump to sign the successor deal to the North American Free Trade Agreement that started in 1994.
The USMCA, which the three countries signed onto in November 2018, got to this point after negotiations last year between the U.S. Trade Representative and House Democrats, who said they pushed for stronger protections on labor and environmental issues.
But the senators who voted against the deal Thursday said they did so because it doesn’t mention climate change, let alone meaningfully address it.
“Since NAFTA went into effect 26 years ago, we lived through the two hottest decades in recorded history,” Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., wrote in a Twitter thread Wednesday before voting no on the deal.
“The USMCA trade deal fails to even mention climate change,” he wrote. “It has no climate or environmental standards, and includes explicit giveaways for the fossil fuel industry.”
Free trade agreements tend to facilitate increased production and logistics around manufacturing and exports, which drives emissions and fossil fuel use, environmental advocates have said.
But that doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion, as trade agreements can still include measures to confront environmental harm, said Amanda Maxwell, Latin America project director at the Natural Resources Defense Council Inc., an environmental advocacy nonprofit.
“The simple way that the USMCA could have done that was by having the parties agree to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris climate agreement,” she said.
The Trump administration has signaled its plans to withdraw from the Paris agreement, which went into effect in November 2016 and involved some 190 countries agreement on climate change.
The USMCA does address environmental issues more generally, saying the parties should continue to enforce their environmental laws, and take steps to conduct impact assessments. The deal also commits to a number of other multilateral agreements that the three countries participate in, including the 1987 Montreal protocol that addresses the depletion of the ozone layer.
Meanwhile, retail industry leaders lauded the deal as a victory for the textile, apparel and retail industries, and urged a “seamless” transition from NAFTA.
“The USMCA was passed with a strong bipartisan majority in addition to being broadly welcomed by the business community and other stakeholders,” said Steve Lamar, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “Hopefully this is the new normal for trade policy going forward.”