USMCA divides 2020 Democrats on debate stage in Los Angeles

Democrats eyeing the presidential nomination in 2020 have mixed opinions over a newly agreed-upon trade deal – the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) – which was approved by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives during Thursday’s legislative session.

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The USMCA, which encompasses more than $1.3 trillion worth of trade, is now headed to the Senate for approval. But Democratic senators in the presidential race are already divided over how they will vote.

When asked during the sixth Democratic debate in Los Angeles whether he would support the agreement, Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he would not. He noted that he is one of a few people that opposed the original NAFTA agreement – and he doesn’t think the new deal is much of an upgrade.

“This is a modest improvement over what we have right now,” Sanders said. “At the end of the day, in my view, it is not going to stop outsourcing, it is not going to stop corporations from moving to Mexico where manufacturing workers make less than $2 an hour. What we need is a trade policy that stands up for workers, that stands up for farmers…”

Sanders also criticized the deal for not acknowledging climate change.

On the flip side, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is prepared to vote in favor of the USMCA.

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While Klobuchar said she would not have voted for the original terms proposed by the Trump administration, she believes changes added by House Democrats – including better labor and environmental protections – have made the deal “much better.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

“Ninety-five percent of our customers are outside of our borders and we have to make sure that we have trade agreements that are more fair,” Klobuchar said. “For those farmers in the Midwest and for those people that have been hurt by the fact that we will not have a trade segment with Mexico and with Canada and the United States, I think that this is a much better deal.”

The USMCA grants U.S. farmers greater access to new markets, while strengthening rules of origin for auto parts. Democrats pushed for the addition of enhanced labor and environmental standards.

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Current lawmakers, however, have some time to contemplate the terms of the agreement since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said the chamber will not take up the deal until the conclusion of the impeachment trial. The articles of impeachment against Trump – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – have been approved by the House, but not yet sent to the Senate.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently told FOX Business in an interview that the USMCA could create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

However, while lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agree the agreement is an economic victory, Democrats appeared at odds with their Republican counterparts on Thursday over just how well the U.S. economy is currently doing.

Despite Trump’s mention that many indicators – like the unemployment rate and the stock market – point to the fact that the U.S. economy is strong, Democrats are taking the opposite stance.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said the middle class is “getting killed” and the working class “has no way up as a consequence.” Biden added that the very wealthy are growing but ordinary people are not.

Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg agreed, saying that people aren’t measuring the economy by “how the Dow Jones is looking,” but rather by “how they’re doing.”

“This economy is not working for most of us,” Buttigieg said.

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