The Trump administration negotiated the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), an important update and revision to NAFTA, a year ago, but House Democrats have refused, until now, to bring it up for a vote. Democrats have been focused exclusively on impeachment and other means of undermining the Trump administration, and didn’t want to give President Trump an important victory. Happily, that opposition has now collapsed, and Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday that USMCA will move forward in the House.
What caused the change of heart? The agreement is obviously beneficial to the United States, and the Democrats never pretended to have an argument against it. Over time, they came under pressure from agricultural interests, unions and others to stop blocking the deal, which was approved long ago by both Mexico and Canada. The San Joaquin Valley Sun has an interesting take that focuses on the agricultural benefits of the agreement:
The Trump administration laid out a full-court press in California, dispatching some of its top personnel to put pressure on Democratic members of Congress to advance USMCA.
With a deal finally struck between Trump and Pelosi on the trade pact, ag groups have celebrated its projected approval.
Western Growers – an organization that represents local farmers in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico – released a statement from president and CEO Tom Nassif in support of the agreement, saying the deal secures freer and fairer trade opportunities.
“In this turbulent trade environment, American farmers need certainty more than ever,” Nassif said. “The USMCA not only reaffirms our strong economic ties with our North American neighbors, it offers a new model for how U.S. trade deals should be structured in the future.
“For the fruit, vegetable and tree nut industry, this deal ensures continued access to our top two export markets while making much needed sanitary-phytosanitary (SPS) updates that will improve our defenses against devastating pests and diseases.”
Nassif noted the labor reforms that will require Mexico to substantially improve its wages and labor standards, saying it will “improve the competitiveness of our domestic growers in an increasingly global marketplace.”
The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) shared similar support for the deal in a statement.
The Democrats might be able to ignore farmers, but they can’t ignore unions, which I am sure were also weighing in behind the scenes.
President Trump made trade a major issue in the 2016 campaign, arguing that prior administrations had entered into a series of disadvantageous trade agreements that should be revisited. Many were skeptical at the time, and the Democrats portrayed Trump as a protectionist dinosaur. But it has turned out that he was right. Trade agreements are not sacrosanct, and prior administrations did not adequately defend American interests. Imposing tariffs, or threatening to do so, turned out to be an effective way to get other parties to the bargaining table. USMCA is a signal victory for President Trump–one that the House Democrats permitted only out of necessity.