WASHINGTON – The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on a major rewrite of trade rules with Canada and Mexico and, if it passes, it will head to President Donald Trump for his signature.
The bill approving the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is anticipated to garner the same kind of broad bipartisan support the trade measure received when USMCA overwhelmingly passed the House last month by a 385-41 vote.
Trump and the leaders of both parties strongly support the measure, proving that Congress can still unite when it wants to even during the bitter partisan division over impeachment.
The new agreement would replace rules for moving products among the three countries first crafted under the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which essentially eliminated tariffs on most goods traded among the three countries.
Democrats and Republicans have hailed the USMCA pact – a top legislative priority for Trump – as a victory for American farmers and workers and said it could serve as a model for trade agreements.
Trump relentlessly ridiculed NAFTA as the “worst trade deal ever” when he was running for president three years ago, arguing it put American workers at a competitive disadvantage. Other critics, including Democrats, conceded NAFTA was outdated and needed to be revised.
The measure is supported by a wide array of senators, including conservatives who back free trade and liberals such as Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren who applaud the stiffer worker protections that were lacking in NAFTA.
“This new trade deal is a modest improvement,” Warren, a 2020 presidential candidate said during a debate in Iowa Tuesday night. “It will give some relief to our farmers. It will give some relief to our workers. I believe we accept that relief, we try to help the people who need help, and we get up the next day and fight for a better trade deal.
“This is a big deal,” Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman, who served as the U.S. Trade representative under President George W. Bush, said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who also is vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on the debate stage he plans to vote against the USMCA in part because he said it fails to acknowledge the need to confront the threats posed by global warming.
“And given the fact that climate change is right now the greatest threat facing this planet, I will not vote for a trade agreement that does not incorporate very, very strong principles to significantly lower fossil fuel emissions in the world,” Sander said.