More than a year after government officials from the United States, Mexico and Canada signed a new trade agreement (see Trump and Trade Update of November 30, 2018), and after numerous rounds of negotiations between congressional Democrats and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), it was announced today that the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) has been finalized. Various labor and environmental provisions of the original text of the agreement had presented major obstacles in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., stated, “Today’s agreement is the culmination of months of House Democrats’ work to transform the new NAFTA into a deal that respects the dignity of workers, contains meaningful enforcement provisions, and prioritizes environmental protection and remediation. Our purposeful efforts produced changes to the USMCA that earned the endorsement of the AFL-CIO and will set a new standard for U.S. trade agreements moving forward.”
USTR Robert Lighthizer released a brief statement, agreeing that “[t]his will be a model for American trade deals going forward.” With these revisions, there is now strong bipartisan support for the USMCA in both the House and the Senate. The House is expected to vote and approve the USMCA next week; the Senate vote will not likely occur until early 2020.
While the text of the revised USMCA has not been released, the Ways & Means Committee issued a Fact Sheet providing details on the negotiated changes. These revisions cover: (1) enforcement mechanisms and dispute settlement; (2) labor and workers’ rights rules, including monitoring mechanisms and streamlined enforcement procedures; (3) environmental standards and a commitment to seven multilateral environmental agreements; and (4) the removal of certain provisions regarding prescription drugs and exclusivity as well as addressing the need for balance between competition and incentives for innovation.