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USMCA deals reached

Deals on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade have been reached among the three governments and between President Donald Trump and House Democrats, and the House is likely to vote on USMCA next week before Congress goes home for the holidays.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, White House adviser Jared Kushner and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland all traveled to Mexico City today to sign the agreement with Mexican officials.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., announced at a Capitol Hill press conference that a deal has been reached that they can support.

“This is a day we’ve all been working to and working for on the path to yes,” Pelosi said. “It’s a victory for America’s workers. It’s one we take great pride in advancing.”

Pelosi’s statements were backed up by an endorsement from the AFL-CIO, which has been considered crucial in convincing a large number of House Democrats to support the deal.

“Make no mistake, we demanded a trade deal that benefits workers and fought every single day to negotiate that deal; and now we have secured an agreement that working people can proudly support,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. (See link for details.)

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said today, “I predict an overwhelming vote for this agreement, and my USMCA whip team is engaged and ready to push this important trade agreement over the finish line as soon as it is scheduled for the House Floor.”

“Republican support for President Trump’s hard-negotiated trade deal will be strong. Every day we delay this vote only costs us more jobs, better ability to sell American products into neighboring countries, and a stronger economy,” Scalise said.

The White House has not yet sent the agreement to Congress for consideration, and an exact voting schedule has not been released.

Politico said today that senior House Democrats have speculated that the House could vote on USMCA on Thursday, December 19, the day after the House is expected to vote on impeaching Trump.

But the vote in the Senate appears likely to wait until 2020. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said today that he wants to follow regular order and hold a mock mark up of the bill at which members could propose amendments. The administration is unlikely to adopt those amendments, however.

The Republican-leaning American Farm Bureau Federation and many other farm groups announced their support of the measure. Farm Bureau released a list of USMCA’s accomplishments for agriculture. (See following story.)

“We urge members of Congress to swiftly approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said.

“Agriculture is at a critical crossroads with the downturn in commodity prices, losses from natural disasters and the trade war. This is an opportunity for Congress not only to help U.S. farmers and ranchers turn the corner on trade, but also show that Washington can still get things done on a bipartisan basis.

“Ratification of the USMCA would build on the momentum of the U.S.-Japan agreement, which gave a major boost to American agricultural products in our fourth-largest market, and send a signal that the U.S. is back in business in the international marketplace.”

The Democratic-leaning National Farmers Union will not take a position on the agreement until its board has an opportunity to review the agreement, a spokeswoman said.

R-CALF USA supports the agreement only if mandatory country of origin labeling for beef is included.

R-CALF USA, the nation’s largest producer-only cattle trade association that lobbies on behalf of America’s cattle farmers and ranchers released the following statements today following announcement of an agreement between House Democrats and the White House on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“Once again the House of Representatives and the White House have reached an agreement on a measure that will provide windfall profits for Agribusiness giants at the expense of America’s hard-working cattle farmers and ranchers.

“Although the U.S. cattle industry is the largest segment of American agriculture, making it an unsurpassed economic cornerstone for Rural America, the proposed USMCA does absolutely nothing to change provisions impacting cattle and beef trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

“In fact, the new USMCA is worse than the old NAFTA because at least for several years during the old NAFTA American cattle farmers and ranchers received the tool they needed to finally compete against the growing volume of cheaper imported beef and cattle from Canada and Mexico. From 2013 through 2015, mandatory country-of-origin labels for beef empowered America’s cattle producers to finally begin competing against this growing tide of cheaper, undifferentiated foreign beef.

“We’ve asked Congress and the President to, at the very least, restore mandatory country-of-origin labels (COOL) so American cattle farmers and ranchers could compete against the duty-free, cheaper and undifferentiated cattle and beef flowing into our country and depressing our markets.

“We’ve been ignored.

“We should now expect the downward trends caused by NAFTA to continue, if not accelerate, under the USMCA. Under NAFTA, we lost 20 percent of our cattle operations, wiped out 75 percent of our farmer-feeder-type feedlots, reduced our herd size by millions of head of cattle, and we’ve eliminated opportunities for current and aspiring cattle producers alike with the burden of a horrendous trade deficit in the trade of cattle and beef with Canada and Mexico.

“We urge Congress to vote the USMCA down in its present form.”

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association has also urged for the inclusion of COOL in the USMCA deal

Alternatively, NCBA continues to urge for passage of the agreement.

It was another huge week for American cattle producers after the U.S. House of Representatives announced it will soon vote on the U.S.- Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA). National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston this week issued the following statement regarding the announcement:

“There is no higher policy priority for America’s beef producers than maintaining our duty-free access to Canada and Mexico, and that’s exactly what the USMCA will do. The Trump Administration and Speaker Pelosi deserve credit for working together to get this deal done, and now is the time for Congress to approve USMCA so our producers can move forward with the certainty they need and deserve.”

–The Hagstrom Report, R-CALF USA and NCBA


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