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Gillibrand Explains Vote Against USMCA

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

As more committees consider it today, New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is explaining her vote against the trade deal to replace NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. 

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement has been winding its way through committees in Congress after nearly two years of talks between the North American nations.

The trade deal favored by the Trump administration passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Monday on a 16-4 vote.

The four votes against the USMCA were all minority Democrats: Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand.

“The reason why I voted ‘no’ on President Trump’s trade bill is because it has three fundamental flaws,” Gillibrand said.

Calling it “slightly better than NAFTA,” Gillibrand claims the trade deal doesn’t address global climate change, was a giveaway to Mexican drug companies, and doesn’t do enough for American manufacturers.

“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,” she said.

Gillibrand also echoed concerns from environmental groups like the League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“It left open a lot of loopholes for polluters and New Yorkers are particularly sensitive to that because we are dealing with cleaning up our water from PCBs, TCEs, PFOA and PFAS, and so to have huge loopholes for corporate polluters to keep polluting, again, is a slap in the face to the priorities for New York.”

Massachusetts’ Markey said the agreement fails to even mention climate change while going easy on the fossil fuel industry. Gillibrand agrees.

“We have very strong economic ties with Canada and Mexico, so it would have been the perfect agreement to set a standard that we could have tried to replicate in other trade agreements. If we can’t get it done for the USCMA, who are we going to get it done with?”

Gillibrand acknowledged a formal floor vote on the USMCA — one of President Trump’s top priorities, which has bipartisan support — is coming despite her opposition. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that vote will happen before the president’s impeachment trial.

Mexico has already approved the deal, while a vote in Canada is expected soon.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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