WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a new trade deal for North America on Thursday that includes tougher labor and automotive content rules but leaves $1.2 trillion in annual U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade flows largely unchanged.
The House passed legislation to implement the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, by 385 votes to 41, with 38 Democrats, two Republicans and one independent member voting no.
The bipartisan vote contrasted sharply with Wednesday night’s Democrat-only vote to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump.
The House vote sends the measure to the Senate, but it is unclear when Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will take it up. He has said that a USMCA vote would likely follow an impeachment trial in the Senate that is expected in January.
But the timing of that trial remains up in the air as the two parties clash over how it should be managed.
The USMCA trade pact, first agreed upon in September 2018, will replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump vowed for years to quit or renegotiate NAFTA, which he blames for the loss of thousands of U.S. factories to low-wage Mexico.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave USMCA a green light last week after striking a deal with the Trump administration, Canada and Mexico to strengthen labor enforcement provisions and eliminate some drug patent protections.
U.S. industry groups breathed a sigh of relief at the vote.
“House passage of the USMCA is a huge step toward finalizing this long-awaited 21st century trade agreement,” said Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council, which represents Detroit automakers Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
“This modernized trade deal between our North American trading partners will strengthen the U.S. auto industry and the auto manufacturing supply chain,” Blunt added.
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