01.16.20

Statement On the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

. . . Senate Floor

Today, the Senate considers the “new NAFTA” – a bill now reviewed by seven Senate Committees on which more than 85 Senators serve.  Surely the vote count is clear: this implementing legislation will be adopted today, and sent to the President.  In Vermont, that will mean important wins for our state’s economy, and in particular, our dairy farmers. I will support this bill.

Vermont is a border state, and the commercial and cultural exchanges with Canada are woven into the fabric of the state. 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 America 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 new NAFTA also includes funding to promote clean water infrastructure on the U.S.-Mexico border, and to improve environmental infrastructure on both sides of the southern border.  It also includes funding 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 we should all strongly support. 

This agreement is a compromise.  For all its gains, it lacks important accountability measures to address the escalating threat of climate change.  No one 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.  So while I am grateful that House Democrats were able to secure some concessions from the administration that will ensure that at least consider environmental impacts in terms of trade, the new NAFTA unfortunately, misses that chance.

I have heard from Vermont businesses concerned about our trade future, particularly with our neighbors to the north.  They support this deal, and I ask consent to place a letter of support from the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and Vermont employers in the Record. It is because our trading relationships throughout North America are so vitally important to our national economy – and to local economies like those in Vermont – that I will support this agreement. 

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