The Senate Finance Committee heard endorsements for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) from witnesses representing agriculture, automotive, trucking and small business during a July 30 hearing.
“The agriculture and food industry represents the largest segment of U.S. manufacturing jobs and 12 percent of the American economy,” testified Corteva Agriscience CEO Jim Collins. “It is in our country’s best interest to stand by them and support the passage of the USMCA.”
Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, now U.S. Dairy Export Council president and CEO, noted the agreement would give the dairy industry greater access to Canadian consumers, while bringing an end to Canada’s Class 7 pricing that the U.S. dairy industry opposed as trade distorting and discriminatory.
Lawmakers appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to address concerns about enforcement and biologic drug provisions in the deal said they will work throughout the August recess with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to try to reach an accommodation.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he “has an open mind to workable ideas” to address outstanding concerns with the USMCA. Still, “every day that passes is another day that the benefits of USMCA go unrealized,” he said.
“Trying to reopen the whole of USMCA could risk unraveling the deal altogether, which would benefit nobody,” Grassley added. “I therefore urge House Democrats and Ambassador Lighthizer to focus on their specific concerns and to propose solutions in short order, so that we can pass USMCA.”
Grassley said he wants Congress to vote this fall on implementing legislation for USMCA, but noted that Pelosi must have the room to negotiate and get House Democrats to a supportive position. “I think we must be patient as she works through this,” he said.
Ranking Member Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., emphasized his concerns about enforcement provisions within the trade deal. “…[T]he new NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) carries over the weak enforcement system of the old NAFTA,” Wyden said. “It’s too easy on trade cheats, and it’s not good enough for American workers – particularly on labor rights.”
Wyden and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, have proposed a USMCA provision they say would provide U.S. officials with more effective tools to detect labor violations.
During the hearing, Wyden also criticized President Trump’s tactics on trade, saying they are putting more pressure on agricultural producers. “Workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses should not have to fear that economic uncertainty will cost them their livelihoods,” he said. “It’s a problem when the president acts out and makes impulsive threats regarding our trade relationships.”