A revised trade deal linking the U.S., Canada and Mexico was approved by the Senate Thursday, finalizing a years-long effort to update the pact.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is a reworking of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. The U.S. House approved the new pact on December 19th and on Thursday the Senate endorsed it on an 89 to 10 vote. North Country Chamber President and CEO Garry Douglas says the final Senate ratification is a huge relief for border interests. “All of us who care about, understand and are constantly cultivating the U.S.-Canadian economic partnership, we don't have to worry any longer that something's going to put some kind of final resolution off the rails or postpone it and have us get back into a period of uncertainty. We've said it before and we'll say it again there is no greater driving force in the economy of the North Country of New York than U.S.-Canadian economic partnership. It's been working in the U.S. Canadian context and won’t address the U.S. Mexican context. There are different economic issues there. For the U.S. Canadian context it’s been working fabulously well for the state of New York in general, North Country of New York in particular. And what we needed most out of this process was to not screw it up.”
Both Democratic New York Senators rejected the USMCA. Senator Charles Schumer said he voted no because it did not address climate change. Kirsten Gillibrand says she is particularly concerned about its impact on jobs and manufacturing. “I'm just concerned that the impact of this trade agreement will not be that dissimilar from the impact of NAFTA-1, which was the hollowing out of manufacturing across upstate New York in a way that really reduced jobs and opportunity for New Yorkers.”
Can Am Border Trade Alliance President and CEO Jim Phillips doesn’t agree with Senator Gillibrand. “I was very, very pleased to see the Senate on a bipartisan level voted yes very quickly. So that's a very positive thing. I can't know exactly what Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand had in their minds. As far as manufacturing is concerned, I think that it's going to rebalance manufacturing.”
Douglas disagrees with the two Senators’ votes but says he will give them a “pass.” “They're both good friends. They support us very much on other important issues related to the northern border and the U.S. Canadian relationship.”
While Mexico has approved it, Canada has not yet ratified the USMCA. Douglas says there is strong support north of the border and expects Parliament to pass the agreement soon. “They just simply weren't going to do it before the U.S. did it because the U.S. Congress was seeking changes and so they couldn't get out in front of that and approve something that they would then have to turn around and approve again. Now there's finality, you know it's been approved by Congress, that will come. There's no question about that.”
Bradley: “How quickly do you think Canada will move then?”
Douglas: “Within the next couple of months.”
Negotiations on the USMCA began in August 2017.