Republican Senators push for Mexico, Canada trade agreement passage

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
President Donald Trump announces a revamped North American free trade deal, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. The new deal, reached just before a midnight deadline imposed by the U.S., will be called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. It replaces the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which President Donald Trump had called a job-killing disaster.

Pushing for passage of the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) before the end of the year, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is among 12 Senators vowing to assist in helping the Trump Administration secure a pathway to Congressional consideration of the agreement before January when Democrats take the House.

The Republican Senators say it's in Trump's best interest to move now on the hard-fought new trade agreement in case Democrats refuse to bring it up. 

In a letter to Trump obtained by Politico, Senators said, "We are concerned that if the Administration waits until next year to send to Congress a draft implementing bill, passage of USMCA as negotiated will become significantly more difficult."

According to the letter, it's still possible for the current Congress to consider and vote on the USMCA if the administration submits a copy of the final legal text of the agreement and a draft statement of administrative action "as soon as possible - and before Nov. 30."

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is among 12 Senators pushing for passage of the U. S. Mexico Canada Agreement before the end of the year.

Submitting the documents would "start the clock on a mandatory 30-day waiting period before a draft implementing bill may be submitted to Congress on a day when both chambers are in session," according to the letter.  

Republicans concerned about risking months of sparring with Mexico and Canada on tariffs, are worried Democrats will push for their own demands before the trade agreement could be approved.

In 2008, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wouldn't bring up a Columbia free-trade agreement when George W. Bush was president, Politico reported. The agreement was renegotiated and passed during Barack Obama's presidency.  

The Republican Senators committed to working with the Trump Administration "in a consultative manner to draft implementing legislation that could win our votes, as well as a majority in the House and Senate," if consideration of USMCA was pursued before the end of the year, the letter stated. 

Competing year-end priorities such as completing the Farm Bill and figuring out how to avoid a partial government shutdown will make voting on a new trade deal before next year challenging. 

However, in Mexico, the man tapped to head Mexico's finance ministry after Dec. 1 says officials are expected to sign a revamped trade agreement with the United States and Canada at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina this week.

Carlos Urzua said late Monday that "all possibilities" point to a signing in Argentina.

He said the pact would then have to be ratified by the legislatures in all three countries.

Urzua will lead the ministry when Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.