At a farm group rally on Thursday for approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, two senior members of the U.S. House said that action on the USMCA would carry benefits in resolving the Sino-U.S. trade war. Ratification of the trade pact, the first submitted to Congress by the Trump administration, would show U.S. commitment to free trade and allow the White House to focus on China, they said.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said he expects a vote on the USMCA within a month or two, and asked for patience as the final provisions are worked out. House Democrats are negotiating with the White House over labor, environmental, pharmaceutical, and enforcement language. Congressional Republicans and farm groups have pressed for months for a vote. Analysts say the USMCA will bring modest gains in U.S. exports and will preserve duty-free access for most U.S. farm goods to Canada and Mexico.
“The bigger issue is getting something done about China,” said Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat. “It’s going to be difficult to do if we don’t get this out of the way. We need to get this resolved.”
“We can’t delay any longer. It helps China every day we delay,” said Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the Republican leader on the House Ways and Means Committee. A series of farm state Republican lawmakers urged a vote as soon as possible. “Farmers don’t want aid. They want trade,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The Farmers for Free Trade rally on the National Mall was picketed by the costume-wearing Fat Cat created by the consumer group Public Citizen. “Fat Cat$ 4 USMCA, High Drug Prices” read the group’s protest sign.