Ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has stalled, and some are now saying that passage before the fall is unlikely. Even though Mexico ratified the agreement last month and President Trump has promised to deliver better trade deals, he may not be able to get Congress on board anytime soon.
Quick Ratification of USMCA Unlikely
Fresh Fruit Portal reports that there are now only a few weeks until Congress goes to August recess, and getting the USMCA through Congress before then is probably a long shot. US Representative Earl Blumeanauer said,
“I don’t see how that happens in three weeks.”
Members of Congress are becoming concerned.
At a Congressional hearing in June, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was asked when they’d be sent an agreement to start voting on. Lighthizer wouldn’t give a date, but did say that progress was being made.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also voiced concerns about renegotiation of the agreement, hoping to keep it from infusing into the 2020 presidential election. She also says they don’t want to waste efforts passing a bill that’s only slightly different than NAFTA.
Pelosi Wants “Surgical” Changes
Bill Tomson of Agri-Pulse reports that Pelosi wants to see the bill passed, but has certain stipulations. Pelosi wants to cut a provision that requires Mexico and Canada to extend patents for biological pharmaceuticals and enforce rules on labor and environmental standards.
However, making those changes would re-open the the agreement, and Mexico and Canada would have to agree to the changes. It’s something Republicans were hoping to avoid.
Mexico has already passed legislation to implement the labor reforms required by the USMCA. It means Mexico has to redo 700,000 labor contracts that did not give laborers a voice on wages or benefits. US Democrats don’t believe that Mexico will follow through. They blame NAFTA for creating those conditions in the first place.
“You can have every kind of agreement in the world, but if you don’t have enforcement, you’re just having a conversation,” Pelosi said Thursday. “We do not want to pass this agreement just slightly different from NAFTA with a little sugar on top and said ‘see we did something different.’”
She’s suggesting “surgically” going into the USMCA to rework it, in order to prevent large and complicated changes.
AFBF Hopes to Keep USMCA As-Is
An American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) trade official has predicted that doing so would likely cause a delay in passage, but it might be necessary in order to satisfy the Democrats.
Glen Vaagen of Washington Ag Network spoke with Dave Salmonsen of the AFBF on the matter. Salmonsen says that since Mexico ratified the USMCA already, and Canada has vowed to move quickly if the US also does, they’d rather not have to go back in and change things.
“The danger there, of course, is as much as you may call it ‘surgical,’ or say we just want to do a few things, maybe Canada and Mexico weren’t completely pleased with everything they agreed to the first time around, maybe there are issues they want to reopen.”
Numerous Ag Groups Urge Ratification
Rhiannon Branch of Brownfield Ag News says that over 950 Ag groups support the ratification of the USMCA. The numerous organizations came together and signed a letter that was sent to Congress in June.
The letter states that the USMCA will benefit both the US food and US Agriculture industry, as well as establish an ample supply of safe food at affordable prices. They argue that ratification of the USMCA could be a $2.2 billion boon to the US economy, and builds upon the previous NAFTA agreement by improving exports.
Significant contributors to the letter included the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association.
US Dairy Industry Urges Ratification
The US dairy industry is also hoping Congress can ratify the USMCA. Morning Ag Clips reported that an outreach campaign has begun emphasizing the importance of the agreement to US dairy farmers and manufacturers.
A letter was written by the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC), the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). Excerpts are below.
“On behalf of the dairy farms and businesses in your district, please pursue a USMCA vote without delay by working to resolve any outstanding issues as swiftly as possible and then quickly ratify the trade deal to send a clear message to the world that America still values fair trade and robust trade partnerships with our allies.”
According to the US International Trade Commission, if the USMCA were ratified it could mean $277 million in increased sales to our North American trade partners.
Michael Dykes, President and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association said,
“On behalf of our dairy industry which pumps $620 billion into the U.S. economy each year, we are making a strong appeal to Congress to vote to ratify USMCA now. To pave the way for USMCA ratification, we ask the Administration to restore a market principled approach to trade –transparent, rules-based and predictable for our North American trading partners. The time has come to focus on what’s important to our economy—maintaining American jobs, growing U.S. export markets, and restoring America’s reputation as a reliable supplier.”