US House passes new North American trade pact

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Implementation Act (H.R. 5430) by a sweeping vote of 385 to 41 on Dec. 19.

The 41 House lawmakers who voted against implementing the USMCA included 38 Democrats, two Republicans and one Independent.

Many trade associations applauded the House’s passage of USMCA before the holiday recess.

“USMCA is a welcome gift this holiday season, leveling the playing field for trade in North America and helping U.S. companies and the 12 million workers they employ compete in our top two export markets,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donohue in a statement.

Numerous trade associations pressed Congress throughout the year to act on the USMCA.

“Months ago, when others predicted nothing but partisan gridlock, manufacturers mobilized to make sure that the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement won the overwhelming support it deserved,” said National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons in a statement. “Today, the NAM’s efforts helped secure a strong bipartisan vote for this historic agreement.”

“This agreement provides significant updates to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has benefited U.S. retailers, workers and consumers for a quarter-century,” said David French, senior vice president of government relations for the National Retail Federation.

“These modernized provisions will help ensure that North American trade policy reflects today’s global economy and will continue to benefit the U.S. economy. USMCA is a meaningful trade victory that will provide benefits for decades to come,” he added.

However, the Senate is not expected to take up the USMCA until after the impeachment trial, which is expected to begin in early January.

“Final passage of USMCA will solidify America’s trading relationship with our North American neighbors and signal to the world that America remains open for business,” the U.S. Chamber’s Donohue said.

USMCA will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, which entered force on Jan. 1, 1994.

On May 18, 2017, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer informed Congress that President Trump intended to commence negotiations with Canada and Mexico with respect to NAFTA. Negotiations among the three nations to replace NAFTA concluded in September 2018.

Mexico’s Senate has already ratified the new USMCA, while Canada’s Parliament is expected to take up the new trade pact soon.