Senate passes USMCA, sends it to Trump
The Senate passed the bill to implement the U.Sl-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade Jan. 16, 2020.
The vote was 89 to 10. The House has already passed it and the measure will now go to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Mexico has already approved the agreement, but it won’t go into effect until Canada approves it.
“We’ve long waited for this day and now USMCA will finally head to the president’s desk,” Agriculture Secretary Perdue said.
“The passage of USMCA is great news for America’s farmers and ranchers. With congressional consideration now complete, our farmers and ranchers are eager to see the president sign this legislation and begin reaping the benefits of this critical agreement,” Perdue said.
“I thank President Trump and Ambassador [U.S. Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer for successfully delivering an improved and modern trade agreement and working so hard for the people of American agriculture to get this deal across the finish line.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, was one of the senators who voted against the bill.
“This agreement is opposed by labor unions like the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers. It is opposed by the Sunrise Movement, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters and every major environmental group in America.
“And it is opposed by the National Family Farm Coalition, which believes it will lock in rules that have devastated family farms and expanded corporate control over agriculture in North America.
“I am proud to stand with these labor unions, environmental groups and family farmers against Trump’s NAFTA 2.0.”
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker also voted against it, commenting in a news release about the lack of country of origin labeling for meat.
“While there are some modest improvements in USMCA for farmers who have been hurt by this administration’s lack of strategy on trade, overall it falls far short. For instance, the absence of Country of Origin Labeling provisions means that multinational meatpackers will continue to pass their imported meat off as American, further eroding fair competition and preventing shoppers from supporting local family farmers and ranchers.
Two national cattle groups, R-CALF USA and USCA had called on Congress to include country of origin labeling for beef. R-CALF issued member alerts asking their members to urge their senators and congressional delegates to vote “no” if COOL was not included.
R-CALF USA’s Bill Bullard said, “We are deeply disappointed that the U.S. Senate has ignored the interests of United States cattle farmers and ranchers by voting to extend the 25-year-old NAFTA agreement (North American Free Trade Agreement) under its new name, the USMCA.
“The USMCA makes no changes at all for the largest sector of American agriculture, the U.S. cattle industry. Importers of beef and cattle will continue to have 30% more inventories of cattle from which to source cheaper, undifferentiated cattle and beef and U.S. cattle producers are left without any ability to distinguish their superior product with a mandatory country-of-origin label. This means United States consumers will not be able to choose to support United States cattle farmers and ranchers.
“The combination of cattle and beef is the leading agricultural import from Canada and Mexico. We sell those countries less than $2 billion in cattle and beef each year and turn around and buy over $4 billion of the very same products.
“This persistent trade deficit has caused our U.S. cattle industry to shrink over the past 25 years. We now have fewer cattle producers, cattle, auction yards, feedlots and packers with which to start this new USMCA era. That means our industry now lacks the critical mass of competitive infrastructure it had when we entered NAFTA more than two decades ago.
“Because our industry now lacks the critical mass of competitive infrastructure to withstand the shock of the new USMCA, we should expect our industry to continue its contraction.
“We will now go to Congress to seek out members who share our concern that U.S. cattle producers have been rendered non-competitive under the USMCA because they have no means to distinguish their exclusively USA-produced beef from the cheaper, undifferentiated substitutes that will continue flooding our markets.”
Leo McDonnell with USCA issued a statement last week to share his group’s concerns over USMCA
“While some have said that NAFTA has had a positive impact on U.S. cattle producers, that is not correct,” wrote McDonnell. “NAFTA was an extension of the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA) to include Mexico and superseded the previous agreement with Canada. As one looks at the impact of North American free trade agreements you would need to go back to 1988 to accurately study prior trade flows with Canada and 1993 with Mexico as the two agreements went into force on January 1, 1988 and January 1, 1994 respectively.”
“Looking at the three-year average prior to CUSFTA (1985,1986, 1987) on just live cattle, Canada was exporting on average 280,000 cattle to the U.S. However, during the last three years (2016, 2017, 2018), exports from Canada have averaged 1,200,000.”
Jennifer Houston, president of the NCBA was far more optimistic, sharing the following statement:
“The ratification of USMCA is a crucial win for all U.S. beef producers and a reassurance that U.S. beef will continue to have unrestricted, duty-free access to Canada and Mexico. NCBA has been a strong supporter of USMCA since day one, and we believe that today’s vote sends a strong message to the rest of the world that the United States believes in free and fair trade. We are thankful to every Member of Congress in both House and Senate who voted for USMCA, and we thank President Trump for continuing to secure and defend strong market access for America’s cattlemen and cattlewomen.”
–The Hagstrom Report, R-CALF USA, USCA, NCBA