Trump signs bipartisan USMCA trade deal, only invites GOP

Michigan delegation was divided

By: - January 29, 2020 3:48 pm

President Trump delivers remarks with, Canadian President Trudeau, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto at the signing the USMCA trade agreement on the margins of the G-20 Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina on November 30, 2018. | State Department photo by Ron Przysucha via Flickr Public Domain

President Donald Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Wednesday afternoon. Although the new trade deal had plenty of input from Democratic members of Congress, only Republican lawmakers were invited to the signing ceremony in the White House.

The deal cleared the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 384-41 in December, and the U.S. Senate passed it earlier this month, 89-10.

Trump is set to trumpet the deal when he visits a Warren auto supplier on Thursday.

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U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden) attended the ceremony and praised the Trump administration for the agreement in a press release afterward.

“I have said from the beginning of my time in Congress that NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] was outdated and needed to be replaced,” Mitchell said. “The USMCA brings necessary updates that ensure economic growth, greater access to markets, agricultural expansion, and job creation.”

In his own statement, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) called it “unfortunate” that Trump did not invite Democrats to the signing ceremony.

“This bipartisan agreement wouldn’t have been possible without Democrats in Congress, who not only voted for the agreement but made significant changes to the deal to benefit the American worker,” Kildee wrote. “The signing of a significant trade agreement should rise above politics, yet unfortunately the President turned this achievement into a partisan photo-op.”

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Kildee said that House Democrats rewrote the agreement to include “the strongest enforcement mechanisms of any U.S. trade agreement ever” and “removed the Trump Administration’s giveaway to pharmaceutical companies.”

Kildee also noted that although he believes the USMCA is “far from perfect,” it is better than the Trump administration’s original USMCA proposal and is an improvement over NAFTA, which had been in place since 1994.

“I disagree with the president on many issues. But I have always said that I am willing to work with President Trump on areas where we can make real progress on the issues facing the American people. Democrats are getting things done in Congress — it is now incumbent on the President to work with us on other important issues like lowering drug prices and investing in America’s infrastructure,” Kildee said.

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In Michigan, the new trade deal has been heralded for the potential to create thousands of automotive jobs and result in investments of more than $30 billion. It is also expected to benefit jobs in the dairy industry, as the USMCA will open up Canada’s market to American dairy producers.

However, critics like U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.), who voted no, contend it didn’t do enough to improve on NAFTA and benefit workers.

“The fundamental problem with NAFTA was that it encouraged American businesses to ship jobs to Mexico, where they could exploit low-wage workers,” Levin said in a statement. “Under the USMCA, there is no meaningful way for workers in Mexico to improve their working conditions and bargain collectively, and so there is no incentive for American companies to stop outsourcing.

“I fear the USMCA will create another race to the bottom.”

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.