October 7, 2019 6:30 PM, EDT

Republican Leaders Urge Congressional Action on USMCA

Mike Pence and Donald Trump2016 photo of Mike Pence (left) and Donald Trump by Albin Lohr-Jones/Bloomberg News

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The new trade agreement President Donald Trump negotiated with the country’s neighbors to the north and south is policy Congress should consider, said Vice President Mike Pence.

Congress has yet to vote on the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which the nations signed last year. The deal is a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill on Oct. 15.

“While Democrats in Congress have been trying to overturn the will of the American people by reversing Election Day 2016, our administration will continue to fight for policies that create jobs and benefit American workers. So today, I’m here to urge Arizonans to call their elected representatives in Congress and tell them to pass the USMCA,” Pence said in an editorial published Oct. 7. An excerpt is archived on the White House website. The vice president recently visited a manufacturing firm in Arizona.

“The USMCA is an idea whose time has come,” he continued.

A few days before Pence’s editorial, the leader of the U.S. Senate, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, emphasized that his caucus is prepared to act on the agreement. However, Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), continue to block its progress, he explained.

“House Democrats have been more interested in picking fights with the White House than clinching bipartisan victories for America,” McConnell indicated in an editorial co-authored by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

“Under pressure from progressives to deny the country any successes during the Trump administration, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tried to run out the clock on the USMCA. Leading House Democrats frequently claim to support the deal in the abstract but have spent months finding one excuse after another to delay passing it,” the two top Republicans wrote on Sept. 29.

Responding to the GOP’s criticism, Pelosi told reporters she would continue to press ahead with pending legislative matters, including the new trade agreement, as her caucus carries out an impeachment inquiry of Trump.

“We have a responsibility to uphold our oath of office, support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Pelosi said on Oct. 2. “We also have a responsibility to get the job done for the American people.”

Several Democrats have expressed concerns about labor practices and environmental regulations that have the potential of being affected by the deal.

As debate is expected to continue in Congress, American Trucking Associations and other stakeholders are calling on policymakers to take action on the agreement.

Addressing freight executives at ATA’s annual Management Conference & Exhibition on Oct. 7, ATA President Chris Spear indicated his team has been engaging in discussions on Capitol Hill and between Mexican and Canadian counterparts.

“It’s been said that trade and trucking are synonymous. Even in this politically polluted environment, one would think free and fair trade would appeal to all sides. And in the case of improving the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, where labor and environmental standards were woefully inadequate, an upgrade is a no-brainer. But even the simplest things can be the hardest,” Spear said.

“Just saying ‘no’ gets you nothing,” he added. “Helping all sides get to yes is what we’re all about, and why this agreement will pass and soon bring economic stability to our industry for years to come. We are in this together.”

According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, USMCA modernizes food and agriculture trade, enhances protections for intellectual property, addresses digital trade and advances rules of origin for automobiles and trucks.

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