US House passes new North American trade deal

WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a new North American trade deal on Thursday that includes tougher labour and automotive content rules but leaves US$1.2 tril (RM5 tril) in annual US-Mexico-Canada trade flows largely unchanged.

The House passed legislation to implement the US-Mexico Canada Agreement 385-41, with 38 Democrats, two Republicans and one independent member voting no.

The bipartisan vote contrasted sharply with Wednesday night’s Democrat-only vote to impeach US President Donald Trump.

The House vote sends the measure to the Senate, but it is unclear when the Republican-controlled chamber will take it up. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said that consideration of the measure would likely follow an impeachment trial in the Senate, expected in January.

The USMCA trade pact, first agreed upon in September 2018, will replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trump vowed for years to quit or renegotiate NAFTA, which he blames for the loss of millions of US factory jobs to low-wage Mexico.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave USMCA a green light last week after striking a deal with the Trump administration, Canada and Mexico to strengthen labor enforcement provisions and eliminate some drug patent protections.

Pelosi said she was not concerned about Democrats handing Trump a political victory on USMCA as they are trying to remove him from office.

“It would be a collateral benefit if we can come together to support America’s working families, and if the president wants to take credit, so be it,” Pelosi said during House floor debate before the vote. – Dec 20, 2019, Reuters

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