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USMCA a political tinderbox as timing becomes critical

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The United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA) has been a political tinderbox for the past week and a half in Washington. I am not saying it hasn’t been a topic of discussion for longer than two weeks, but we are seeing the debate and pressure build very recently.

U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer made two visits to Capitol Hill, last week, and sat before some committees who will have a lot to say on this trade pact. Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee the bill was very enforceable, especially on labor and the environment. These are two areas which House Democrats are digging their heels in on. Lighthizer went so far as to say he can assuage Democrats’ concerns in the matter of an afternoon.

At the House Ways and Means Committee, things became much more politically charged. With Democrats charging USMCA was being pushed through too quickly, and Republicans responding Democrats were dragging their feet.

Last week the governors of 27 states, including Iowa’s Kim Reynolds, signed on to a letter urging Congressional leadership to move forward passing USMCA. One thing to consider is these were all Republican Governors. No Democratic governors broke with party ranks in the Congress, even in states where their Ag industries could benefit. Republicans are charging Democrats are more concerned with blocking a trade victory for President Trump before the 2020 Presidential elections than they are with passing a trade deal to benefit American industry. We cannot speculate to the motives of the 23 governors who didn’t sign the letter, but you can see where it can add fuel to an already fiery debate.

President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also weighed in on the deal’s status last week. Trudeau came to Washington to meet with President Trump, and to lobby House Democrats for the bill’s passage. President Trump said he feels like the agreement can be passed with bipartisan support, but it is up to the Democrats.

Trump also said he knows pre-election politics is already playing a huge roll in the debate, but he reiterated his belief that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will do the right thing.

Prime Minister Trudeau reaffirmed his commitment to the deal saying he would call parliament back to pass the deal as soon as the United States ratifies it. Mexico ratified the deal, last week with a 114-4 vote. President Trump highlighted the vote while he discussed the support the deal has.

House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR 3rd) says the bill will not likely be passed before the summer recess in August. Most likely, it will have to wait until the fall. Many agree if it doesn’t get passed this year, it will very likely only be a weapon for both parties in the 2020 campaigns.

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