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US Senate Approves New North American Trade Deal


FILE - The flags of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are seen on a lectern before a joint news conference during NAFTA talks in Mexico City, Mexico, March 5, 2018.

The U.S. Senate approved a new North American trade agreement Thursday, a key victory for President Donald Trump as the Senate officially opened an historic impeachment trial against him.

The 100-member Senate approved the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) by an overwhelming 89-to-10 bipartisan vote, sending it to Trump to be signed into law.“

This historic agreement not only modernizes and re-balances our trade relationship with Canada and Mexico, but it promotes economic growth, creates jobs, and provides crucial certainty for farmers, workers and manufacturers,” U.S. Treasury Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the initial draft of the agreement proposed by the Trump administration “left American workers exposed to losing their jobs to Mexico,” high prescription drug prices and low environmental standards.

Pelosi added that the USMCA was “transformed by Democrats’ leadership for American workers, American patients and the environment.”

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The USMCA replaces the 25-year-old North American Free Trade agreement, known as NAFTA.

The legislation includes more stringent rules on auto manufacturing, e-commerce and labor provisions, but leaves largely unchanged the trade flows between the North American countries valued at $1.2 trillion.

The measure was passed in December by the House of Representatives, where it received bipartisan support after Democrats secured amendments to its enforcement, environment, pharmaceutical and worker provisions.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell touted the measure’s approval as “a major win for country” and “a major win for the Trump administration.”

But Senator Pat Toomey, a member of Trump’s Republican Party, offered a rare criticism of the deal.“

It will mean higher prices for American consumers, who will have to pay more money for a car and therefore will have less money available for any of the other things they would like to consume.”

Toomey added: “It will probably lead to an increase or acceleration in the shift of automation.”

The pact aims to have more vehicles made in the U.S. and requires Mexico to revise its laws to facilitate the formation of independent unions, which should benefit workers and reduce the incentive for American companies to relocated their factories.

The AFL-CIO, an association representing trade unions, endorsed the measure. But many environmental groups opposed it, maintaining that not only does it ignore climate change, but asserting that it would contribute to rising temperatures.

The USMCA had been delayed in the Senate due to political wrangling over the chamber's impeachment trial of President Trump.

The deal will not be fully implemented until it is ratified by Canada, whose House of Commons is expected to vote on it later this month.