U.S. House Democrats, Trump administration reach agreement on USMCA deal

Source: Xinhua| 2019-12-11 02:57:16|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- U.S. House Democrats on Tuesday announced that they have reached an agreement with the Trump administration over changes to a new North American trade deal, known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

"This is a day we've all been working to and working for on the path to 'Yes,'" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference along with other House Democrats.

"There is no question, of course, that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA. But in terms of our work here, it is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration," Pelosi said of the revisions to the USMCA, which would replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

While the leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico signed the proposed USMCA more than a year ago, House Democrats have negotiated for months with Trump administration officials to resolve their concerns about enforcement tools for labor and environmental standards as well as drug provisions in the new trilateral trade deal.

"Make no mistake, we demanded a trade deal that benefits workers and fought every single day to negotiate that deal; and now we have secured an agreement that working people can proudly support," Richard Trumka, president of AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation in the United States, said Tuesday in a statement backing the revised USMCA.

"For the first time, there truly will be enforceable labor standards -- including a process that allows for the inspections of factories and facilities that are not living up to their obligations," Trumka said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer believed that the revised USMCA would become the model for future U.S. trade agreements.

"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. This will be the model for American trade deals going forward," Lighthizer said in a statement.

The revised trade deal came after more than 2,200 farmers across the United States urged Congress to swiftly pass the USMCA amid greater trade uncertainty.

"Each day without action on USMCA is another day of uncertainty for American farmers and our rural communities," the farmers wrote in a letter to congressional leaders released by advocacy group Farmers for Free Trade last week.

"We have suffered from retaliatory tariffs, lost market share, and watched while America's competitors are seen as more reliable trading partners," the farmers said, calling ratifying USMCA a top priority for the nation's agriculture community.

The timing of the announcement of the USMCA deal was extraordinary, as House Democrats earlier on Tuesday unveiled two articles of impeachment, accusing President Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Libby Cantrill, a managing director and head of public policy at PIMCO, a global investment management firm, believed that the impeachment inquiry could actually help get the USMCA through the Congress.

"Even though most Democrats may support an impeachment inquiry -- and may even vote for impeachment -- they also want to be seen collaborating with the president to get important things done," Cantrill wrote in a recent analysis.

The Democratic-held House is expected to vote to ratify the USMCA next week, while the Republican-led Senate is likely to vote on the trade deal in January, according to U.S. media.