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Democrats, White House Reach Deal on New North American Trade Agreement

December 10, 2019 by Dan McCue
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks while flanked by fellow members during a news conference on the USMCA trade agreement, on Capitol Hill Dec. 10, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Pelosi said an agreement has been reached on a deal over the U.S.-Mexico-Canada, but final details for the trade pact were still being ironed out. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Long after some thought an agreement between the House and the Trump administration on a new North American trade pact would require a miracle, a deal was finally announced on the same day the House unveiled impeachment charges against the president.

Both sides said the revamped U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, known as USMCA, is a significant improvement over the original North American Free Trade Agreement.

“There is no question of course that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in announcing the agreement, saying the pact is “infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration.”

Trump said the revamped trade pact will “be great” for the United States.

“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,” the president said via Twitter.

Shortly after the agreement was announced in Washington, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland joined Mexican officials to sign the updated version of the trade agreement in Mexico City’s centuries-old National Palace.

Lighthizer praised the joint work of the Trump administration, Democrats, business and labor leaders to reach an agreement, calling it “nothing short of a miracle that we have all come together.”

A U.S. House vote is likely before Congress adjourns for the year and the Senate is likely to vote in January or February. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the vote on the trade deal will likely occur after an expected impeachment trial in the Senate.

Pelosi was the key congressional force behind the deal. She and Ways and Means Committee Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., forged a positive working relationship with Lighthizer, whom they credited with working in good faith.

“Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, we have reached an historic agreement on the USMCA. 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. “This will be the model for American trade deals going forward.”

A key to getting Democrats to rally around USMCA was the 11th-hour support of organized labor.

“There is no denying that the trade rules in America will now be fairer because of our hard work and perseverance. Working people have created a new standard for future trade negotiations,”said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “President Trump may have opened this deal. But working people closed it.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, “There’s a general agreement — not total agreement, it’s not unanimity — that USMCA is better. It’s an improvement. And to the extent that Trumka and labor comes out and says that this is an improvement, I think that that will be unifying.”

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