Government affairs

Legislative Updates

House passes USMCA to replace NAFTA

Today, the House voted to ratify the U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) (H.R. 5430), which would replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The passage of the USMCA comes after many months of difficult negotiations between the countries, and between Congressional Democrats and the Administration via the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

The original proposal signed in November 2018 by the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. lacked effective enforcement mechanisms for labor violations and contained language that would make it more difficult to prosecute such violations, it gave drug companies monopoly benefits that would lead to an increase in costs to patients and limit access to life-saving medicines, and it did little to improve environmental conditions or include enforcement mechanisms.

The renegotiated USMCA improves upon much of those problems with the original proposal thanks in large part to the work of Congressional Democrats working in concert with U.S. labor unions. These improvements include: a new rapid response enforcement mechanism for fast-track panels to investigate labor violations, stronger and easier means to prosecute labor violations, strengthening of language on violence against workers and banning goods produced with forced labor, eliminating provisions limiting access to medicines, and stronger language on environmental concerns.

Overall, the trade agreement is being viewed as an improvement to NAFTA and passed with strong bipartisan support in the House. The Senate will not take up the trade agreement until the new year, however, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated he wants the chamber to conclude the impeachment trial before moving on to other legislative business.

NALC will continue to monitor the trade agreement’s progress and keep letter carriers updated on any trade deal that has direct impact to letter carriers.

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