01.15.20

Statement On The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

Today the Committee considers the “new NAFTA” – the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.  We are the seventh Senate Committee to consider this proposal.  When we report this measure, more than 85 Senators will have served as members of Committees that reported this bill.  That has to be some kind of record.

This Committee talks a lot about the needs of border states.  It seems in recent years, that discussion has primarily focused on the southern border.  But I represent a border state – and Vermont’s largest export destination is Canada.  In 2018, Vermont exported $1.3 billion – billion – in goods to Canada.  That is 43 percent of Vermont’s exports.  Trade with our neighbors to the north is essential to Vermont, just as trade throughout North American is important to our national economy.

This agreement is far from perfect, but reflects a compromise that results when parties come together with a desire to make progress.  It makes important updates to the more than 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement to reflect the advances in digital trade and intellectual property.  The agreement will protect our ability domestically to increase the availability of affordable drugs.  Importantly, to Vermont and the struggling dairy industry across the country, the agreement will increase U.S. access to markets in Canada and Mexico for our high quality dairy products.

The agreement includes $843 million in appropriated dollars to enhance and support its goals.  This includes $300 million for clean water infrastructure on the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as $215 million for the North American Development Bank to improve environmental infrastructure on both sides of the southern border.  It also includes $210 million for to support reforms to the labor justice system in Mexico, to reduce the use of child labor and forced labor, to reduce human trafficking, and for international labor activities.   These are important aspects of the deal that I strongly support. 

As I said, this agreement is a compromise.  For all its gains, it lacks important accountability measures to address the escalating threat of climate change.  No one should be surprised that an administration that announced from the start its intention to remove the United States from the landmark Paris Agreement would not agree to binding limits on pollution.  It should not surprise us that the Trump administration would not agree to any system to enforce environmental regulations.  It is the greatest flaw of this agreement, and a startling missed opportunity.  We can no longer deny that climate change is real.  And the United States has a real opportunity to be a world leader in developing the green jobs and green economies that must drive our future.  Unfortunately, the USMCA misses that chance.

I have heard from Vermonters expressing support for this agreement.  It is vitally important that the Congress works independently to address the pressing threats of climate change.  But I cannot ignore the importance of our trade alliances with Canada and Mexico, and I will support this negotiated agreement.  I ask that my full statement be made part of the record. 

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