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USMCA Moving Forward, Timeline Uncertain

William Mauldin reported in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal that, “A Senate committee approved a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, despite criticism from some lawmakers that it lacks sufficient protections for U.S. companies.

“The Senate Finance Committee voted 25 to 3 on Tuesday to back the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a pact negotiated with the two neighboring nations by the Trump administration.

“The 2018 deal was amended late last year at the insistence of House Democrats, who demanded more enforcement provisions for the pact’s new labor rules. The House easily passed legislation to implement the agreement in December.”

The Journal article explained that, “USMCA is now headed for a full Senate vote under expedited ‘fast track’ rules and is expected to pass next week, although the timing could be affected by the possible start of a Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.

Graph from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (July 16, 2019).

“If Mrs. Pelosi forwards the articles of impeachment to the Senate then a vote would occur later this winter, according to Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa).”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg writer Erik Wasson reported on Tuesday that, “A full Senate vote on President Donald Trump’s rewritten Nafta trade agreement will be put off until next week at the earliest, after the deal was referred to multiple committees for review, according to a GOP aide.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 25-3 on Tuesday to advance the legislation to implement the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal. However, the accord was also referred to six other panels that could take weeks to consider it, even though the committees can’t change the content of the deal.

“The committees on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Environment and Public Works; Appropriations; Foreign Relations; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and Budget haven’t announced whether they will take time to examine it.”

Mr. Wasson explained that, “Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the Finance chairman, told reporters before the hearing that he only learned Monday of the referral to other panels and that he thinks it is ‘going to be a problem.’

“‘But the real problem is the extent that we don’t know when we are going to get the articles of impeachment. When those articles enter into the Senate chamber that has priority over everything else,’ he said. ‘If I wanted to speculate, and if they don’t come over for another week or 10 days, we can get this done. If the articles of impeachment come over it could be two, three, four weeks before we can get this done.'”

And more broadly on trade related issues going forward, Niv Elis reported on Wednesday at The Hill Online that, “Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Wednesday that he wanted to advance legislation reining in presidential authority on tariffs in 2020.

“‘That’s been a goal of mine and is still a goal,’ Grassley said of legislation to reform section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, which President Trump has used to impose major tariffs on close U.S. trade partners.

“Section 232 gives the president authority to impose tariffs for national security purposes. Trump’s trade critics accused him of abusing the authority by imposing steep steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies such as Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Japan.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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