President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed the implementing language for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement into law, leaving Canadian ratification as the last hurdle for the pact that would preserve the strong trade ties between the three North American countries.
Canada’s House of Commons is expected to take up consideration of USMCA — or CUSMA, as it’s known there — Wednesday afternoon after it’s introduced by the body’s Ways and Means Committee, but it’s unclear how long the process will take.
Trump, before signing the pact, called it a “colossal victory” for farmers, and farm groups were quick to agree.
“In preserving the well-established markets of Mexico and Canada, and providing opportunities for even more exports there, USMCA will help bring the long-term economic stability necessary for farmers to not only survive but thrive,” said Brody Stapel, president of Edge, a Wisconsin-based dairy cooperative.
Beyond provisions that promise increased access to Canada for U.S. dairy, poultry, egg, wheat and wine producers, USMCA preserves the virtually tariff-free ag trade that was established under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump railed against NAFTA before and after he was elected and repeatedly threatened to pull the U.S. out of the pact that he again on Wednesday called a “nightmare.”
“Wheat farmers and Mexico’s wheat buyers are very glad to see the cloud of uncertainty lifted from our trade relationship,” said U.S. Wheat Associates Chairman Doug Goyings. “Replacing NAFTA without harm to the wheat trade relationship was a priority for all of us — mission accomplished.”
But it was an accomplishment that both the White House and House Democrats are claiming credit for, bringing some political animosity to the event Wednesday that took place as the impeachment trial continues this week in the Senate.
Scores of U.S. lawmakers attended the event on the South Lawn of the White House, but no Democrats were present for the signing of the trade pact that passed with strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate.
“House Democrats are the reason President Trump had a USMCA signing ceremony today,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said Wednesday. “Perhaps we were not invited to today’s event on the South Lawn because our presence would be a prominent reminder of our critical leadership in achieving this deal.”
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Neal and many Democrats maintain that USMCA would not have passed without the changes to strengthen labor, environmental, enforcement and other provisions that they negotiated to include in the pact.
But Trump took full credit for “new labor protections that my administration negotiated” in USMCA as well as securing the endorsement of the AFL-CIO.
“When the Trump Administration sent the original USMCA to the House, it was dead on arrival,” Neal said. “Only due to Democrats’ tough negotiations did the deal become viable.”
Only U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer acknowledged the contributions of Democrats, even praising the efforts of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Neal.
“I would also personally like to thank the members of Congress — Republicans and Democrats — who worked so hard on this agreement. Not just last year, but during the course of the negotiations they also were involved every step of the way. They made this a bipartisan success.”
Regardless, the U.S. ag sector is focused on results and eager to see Canada — the only country that hasn’t yet ratified USMCA — finish its process.
“There is definitely increased optimism on farms and ranches across America and we’re grateful for the advances, but we’re also realists eager to see results — especially for our dairy and wheat producers,” said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. “We know it will take time for the new deals to go into effect and translate into increased sales.”
The Farm Bureau said it is hopeful that it won’t take more than a few month for Canada to ratify USMCA, which won’t go into effect until 90 days after all three countries have approved it.
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