Did Congress Make a Mistake With Trump's U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement?

Inu Manak

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) passed the Senate by a vote of 89 – 10 today. Last week, it was unclear whether or not the vote could take place before the president’s impeachment trial due to the fact that seven Senate committees were tasked with reviewing the deal first. The process by which the deal is reviewed is referred to as a “mock markup” where the bill is discussed and voted on, but no amendments can be made. It was largely expected that the committees would quickly advance the implementing bill so that the USMCA could be brought to the Senate floor as soon as possible. But this rush to vote on USMCA was misguided. Not only has Congress failed to debate the merits of a deal with our closest trading partners, the entire process by which USMCA came to a vote raises serious questions about how U.S. trade policy will be handled in the future.

The implementing bill for USMCA is over 200 pages long, and the text of the agreement itself includes 34 chapters, 13 annexes, and 16 side letters. While much has been retained from the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which this supersedes, and also from the Trans‐​Pacific Partnership (TPP) that the United States did not ratify, there are still a number of important changes that were made only about a month ago that warrant additional scrutiny. My colleague and I identified three major issues, which, taken by themselves, should be sufficient cause for an extended discussion of the deal — new auto rules of origin, labor reforms that were negotiated by House Democrats and seen for the first time last month, and the sunset clause.

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