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U.S. Mexico Canada trade deal passes Senate committee, timing of full vote still uncertain

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
Senator Chuck Grassley warned the consideration of the USMCA could be delayed by the impeachment of President Trump.

The Senate Finance Committee's 25-3 vote on Tuesday, Jan. 7, moved the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) one step closer to ratification in the United States. 

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 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, The Detroit News reported.

Impeachment of President Donald Trump could delay the U.S. Senate's consideration of the new trade deal, Sen. Chuck Grassley warned.

The Iowa Republican also told reporters he is considering steps that would ensure the Trump administration properly restores biofuels demand lost to waivers from a federal requirement to blend ethanol and biodiesel into the nation's fuel supply.

Grassley, chairman of Senate Finance Committee, which approved the trade deal Tuesday, said he expects few roadblocks in getting it approved by the full Senate. But he said that "the articles of impeachment have priority over everything else."

The House approved the deal in December after reaching an agreement with the administration on provisions that included stronger monitoring of worker rights. That same week, it voted to impeach Trump, setting up a yet-unscheduled trial in the Senate.

"It's regrettable that a deal (between Trump and House Democrats) was finally reached the week the articles of impeachment passed, but now we're here," Grassley said. "And that's good news for millions of farmers, manufacturers and workers in every corner of America."

The pact is especially important to U.S. farmers. Mexico and Canada buy about $43 billion of U.S. farm products annually.

While the trade deal received the support of his committee, Grassley said it still must make its way through other Senate committees.

"Impeachment remains a wild card in scheduling a full Senate vote on USMCA," he said. "The see-saw between USMCA and impeachments is simple. When impeachment articles arrive, they have precedence over everything else."

Grassley was hopeful that a delay by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. to send over the articles of impeachment would provide time for a Senate could vote on the USMCA next week.

Pelosi has said she is waiting to see what trial process the Senate settles on before she transmits the articles. 

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin felt Trump's deal with Canada and Mexico fell short, but she supported improvements that made it a better trade deal that she can support. 

"The USMCA implementing legislation includes many changes I have pushed for with the Trump administration, including truly enforceable labor standards that benefit our workers, and making sure that we confront Canada’s unfair trade barriers and Mexico’s limits on Wisconsin cheese exports so that we have a trade deal that increases market access for our Wisconsin dairy farmers and cheesemakers," Baldwin said in a press release. "NAFTA, which I opposed, cost Wisconsin jobs and needed to be fixed. I will vote for the USMCA because it is a better deal for farmers, manufacturers, businesses and workers. Going forward, President Trump needs to understand Wisconsin needs better trade deals, not trade wars and that in order to stop the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs we not only need fair trade deals, our workers need tax reform that rewards their hard work and doesn’t encourage corporations to send their jobs to other countries.”

American Dairy Coalition (ADC) CEO, Laurie Fischer expressed enthusiasm for the progress on the trade agreement saying, “U.S. Dairy Farmers have long-awaited movement on these trade discussions. We’re eager to see final passage of USMCA and anxious for the benefits of these trade deals to reach our farmers.”

It is anticipated that this agreement will further U.S agriculture exports by $2 billion, which will result in an estimated $65 billion increase in gross domestic product, according to the ADC. 

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said he hopes the USMCA will be a model for future U.S. trade agreements. 

"We are now one step away from unleashing the competitiveness of America’s farmers and ranchers with our two largest trading partners thanks to today’s Senate Finance Committee vote," said Duvall. "The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will protect our valuable trade relationships with our nearest neighbors and return certainty to our markets. We urge immediate approval by the full Senate to deliver a much-needed win for agriculture."  

Donnelle Eller of the Des Moines Register contributed to this article.

Carol Spaeth-Bauer at 262-875-9490 or carol.spaeth-bauer@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at cspaethbauer or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carol.spaethbauer.