The future of President Trump’s long-negotiated trade deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement could be in peril, after Democrats took control of the House for the first time in eight years during the November midterms.
Continue Reading Below
Trump, who renamed the deal the U.S.- Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA), has been hopeful that Congress will sign the trilateral trade deal by the end of November, but it now may be facing challenges.
“USMCA would have likely passed in a Republican-held Congress on a bumpy but ultimately consistent trajectory,” the Crowell & Moring International Trade Group said in a statement. “It will still likely enjoy broad backing in the Republican Senate. With Democrats now in control of the House, there may be some new challenges to ratification.”
House Democrats, many backed by labor unions, are expected to seek additional concessions from the Trump administration, particularly regarding the new labor provisions, environment and intellectual property protection.
In an official statement, the Labor Advisory Committee on Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy urged U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to reconsider “provisions in the agreement which undermine the interests of workers and consumers.” Among those, according to the statement, is the illegal suppression of wages in Mexico.
The AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the U.S., also said in an official statement that it had “serious doubts that the improved rules will make a meaningful difference to North American working families without additional provisions.”
The deal – more than a year in the making – requires Mexico to allow more autoworkers to unionize and to lift wages in some instances and prohibits countries’ abilities to import goods produced by forced labor. It also aims to protect intellectual property by requiring Canada and Mexico to treat U.S. copyrights with the same protections as their own.
Despite these calls for concessions and the divide in Congress, Trump is staying the course.
“Received so many Congratulations from so many on our Big Victory last night, including from foreign nations (friends) that were waiting me out, and hoping, on Trade Deals,” he wrote. “Now we can all get back to work and get things done!”
Trump could also withdraw from NAFTA in order to force Congress to pass USMCA, although it’s unclear how Republicans and Democrats would react.
For now, a spokesperson for Lighthizer said they were “very confident” that Congress would approve the deal, as reported by FOX Business.
“From the beginning, Ambassador Lighthizer has worked closely with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate on the renegotiation of this agreement,” Jeff Emerson said. “The USMCA is a balanced deal with strong provisions that will benefit U.S. businesses and workers, and that enjoys broad support among key stakeholders.”