USMCA Debate Heats Up

Date: March 5, 2019
House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) expressed doubts that making changes to the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), as some Democrats have called for, will lead to a ratification of the deal after United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer gave testimony last week.   

"He's essentially saying that you can vote for a new and, what he would describe as, improved NAFTA; you could go back to the status quo, which everyone agrees has to be revised," Neal said according to reports, "or you could also acknowledge the threat that the president has offered that if you don't do the new and improved one, you wind up with coming out of NAFTA."

"There's going to be ample opportunity here, once the agreement is sent to us, for conversation and I think that's the better way to handle it," he is reported to say when asked whether reopening the text is an option.

Meanwhile, a top Mexican official said last week that the U.S. and Mexico need to reach a deal that eliminates steel and aluminum tariffs before ratification of the USMCA can move forward.

"The steel thing has to be solved in the next few weeks," Mexican Undersecretary for North America Jesús Seade said, according to reports. "It's really a condition for launching the ratification process in earnest."

A possible solution is substituting the U.S. tariffs with a two-way import quota that covers higher exports to Mexico from the U.S., he said in reports.  

President Trump said at the time the agreement was signed that the tariffs would be lifted as part of the new deal, but that action never took place. Retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico and Canada have remained as a result. Many American lawmakers have said that they will not pass the deal if the tariffs remain in place. 
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