Just over three months ago, members of the U.S. Senate were chastising House leadership to pass the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement as soon as possible so the Senate too could pass the trade deal and carry it into implementation.
Those days seem farther back. Now a bi-partisan group of senators from the Senate Finance Committee, led by the chairman and ranking member of the committee, want the Trump administration to delay implementing USMCA.
Nineteen members of the Senate Finance Committee on Monday wrote U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer asking him to reconsider the June 1 date to start the USMCA. The senators said in the letter there is a "long experience" of trade partners not being ready for trade deals to go into effect so the U.S. "must do this work on the front end to ensure that the words on paper deliver genuine benefits to Americans, including our farmers, workers, and businesses." And another reason to reconsider the June 1 date is the "significant public-health crisis and supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19."
The 19 senators -- seven Republicans and 12 Democrats -- told Lighthizer in their letter that global disruption to governments, businesses, workers and farmers by COVID-19 has left "little, if any time and resources to prepare for a smooth transition to USMCA." The June 1 transition date was already aggressive without a pandemic, but now there are more questions whether businesses have the information to adjust to new rules by then. Further, U.S. law also prevents USMCA from going into force "before Canada and Mexico demonstrate full adherence to their commitments under USMCA."
Starting the agreement prematurely, "particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic" would deny businesses, farmers and workers the intended benefits of USMCA. So "with a strong desire to see USMCA succeed," the senators want to set a more feasible deadline for the trade deal.
The letter was signed by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden, the committee's ranking member, along with fellow Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., John Thune, R-S.D., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Tom Carper, D-Del., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Ben Cardin, D-Md., Tim Scott, R-S.C., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Todd Young, R-Ind., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Bob Casey, D-Penn., Mark Warner, D-Va., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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