Se­nate GOP chair­man re­jects call to vote on USMCA deal this year

Calgary Herald - - FINANCIAL POST - ERIK WASSON

The Repub­li­can chair­man of the U.S. Se­nate com­mit­tee over­see­ing trade re­buffed a call by a dozen GOP se­na­tors to vote on a re­vised a U.S.-Canada-Mex­ico trade agree­ment this year, a move that likely will doom their ef­fort.

The se­na­tors, in a Nov. 20 let­ter, urged U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to send law­mak­ers fi­nal leg­isla­tive lan­guage for the deal as soon as pos­si­ble so that it can pass be­fore Democrats take con­trol of the House next year.

Con­gres­sional con­sid­er­a­tion of the trade pact, known as the USMCA, “this year is not re­al­is­tic, but I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing con­sul­ta­tions with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee chair­man Or­rin Hatch of Utah said Wed­nes­day. He said mem­bers are still re­view­ing the agree­ment.

The law­mak­ers wrote in a Nov. 20 let­ter they’re con­cerned that wait­ing un­til 2019 to send a draft to Congress would make pas­sage “sig­nif­i­cantly more dif­fi­cult,” as some Democrats have called for re­vi­sions. So far, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky hasn’t shown in­ter­est in con­sid­er­ing the trade deal be­fore the end of the year.

If the pres­i­dent pur­sues con­gres­sional ap­proval this year, “we com­mit to work­ing with you in a con­sul­ta­tive man­ner to draft im­ple­ment­ing leg­is­la­tion that could win our votes, as well as a ma­jor­ity in the House and Se­nate,” the se­na­tors wrote. The se­na­tors asked for the pact to be pro­vided be­fore Nov.

30.

The White House trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s of­fice de­clined to com­ment on the long-shot push by the Re­pub­li­cans.

All three na­tions are prepar­ing to sign the agree­ment dur­ing the Group of 20 lead­ers’ sum­mit in Ar­gentina from Nov. 30-Dec.

1. The trade pact will re­quire ap­proval from the U.S. Congress and law­mak­ers in Mex­ico and Canada.

The let­ter was signed by Se­na­tors Pat Toomey of Penn­syl­va­nia, Lamar Alexan­der of Ten­nessee, Steve Daines of Mon­tana, Deb Fis­cher of Ne­braska, Jeff Flake of Ari­zona, Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin, Jon Kyl of Ari­zona, James Lank­ford of Ok­la­homa, Mike Lee of Utah, Rob Port­man of Ohio, Ben Sasse of Ne­braska and Ted Cruz of Texas.

Toomey, who or­ga­nized the let­ter, says he wants changes to the agree­ment in or­der to sup­port it.

The U.S., Canada and Mex­ico reached a pre­lim­i­nary deal at the end of Septem­ber to up­date the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, which Trump had de­rided as a “dis­as­ter” that cost the U.S. jobs. Ne­go­tia­tors from the three coun­tries worked around the clock to clinch an agree­ment so out­go­ing Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto could sign it be­fore his suc­ces­sor An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes of­fice Dec. 1.

The let­ter un­der­scores the new clout Democrats will wield after the party seized con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the Nov. 6 midterm elec­tion. Re­pub­li­cans have a ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate and will turn over con­trol of the House to Democrats in Jan­uary.

The new deal would be called the U.S.-Mex­ico Canada Agree­ment. Busi­ness lead­ers wel­comed the pact, which staved off the risk that Trump would with­draw from NAFTA, as he has re­peat­edly threat­ened. Still, Trump could give six months’ no­tice of U.S. with­drawal from NAFTA, which would put pres­sure on Democrats to vote for the deal or let the trad­ing bloc col­lapse.

RAVELL CALL/THE DE­SERET NEWS VIA AP

Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee chair­man Or­rin Hatch of Utah says Wed­nes­day that mem­bers are still re­view­ing the USMCA and talks will con­tinue with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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