The USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) has cleared its first hurdle in the Senate. On Jan. 7, the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance voted to advance the bill 25-3. However, there are six other committees that must consider the bill first before it is sent to the president’s desk.
As of WLJ press deadline, the committees on Appropriations; Budget; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Environment and Public Works; Foreign Relations; and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions had yet to announce if they will examine the bill.
Finance Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told reporters prior to the committee hearing he had just learned the day before of the referral to other panels and that he thought it was going to be an issue.
Getting to this point
USMCA was passed through the House of Representatives Dec. 19, 2019 in a bipartisan vote of 385-41. The approval came only a day after the House impeached President Donald Trump, which some have argued has slowed down the progression of getting “NAFTA 2.0” put in place.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has yet to send the two articles of impeachment to the Senate as of press time. Some, both in Congress and industry, have claimed this may further delay the Senate’s final vote on USMCA if she decides to send the articles soon.
“The real problem is the extent that we don’t know when we are going to get the articles of impeachment,” Grassley said. “When those articles enter into the Senate Chamber, that has priority over everything else.”
“If I wanted to speculate, and if they don’t come over for another week or 10 days, we can get this done. If the articles of impeachment come over it could be two, three, four weeks before we can get this done,” he added.
It was speculated that the bill could pass through the Senate as early as Jan. 10, but an anonymous Senate GOP aide told trucking and freight news outlet Transport Topics that it wouldn’t be possible due to the committee referrals and other procedures. The aide did say passage through the Senate could happen by Jan. 17.
What happens next?
After the bill passes through the Senate, the legislation heads to Trump’s desk, where he is expected to sign it. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will be repealed once USMCA takes effect, which could be 30 days after Trump signs it at the earliest.
Mexico is the only country to have ratified the agreement so far—the country’s Senate ratified changes to the USMCA Dec. 12.
Canadian legislators are on winter break until Jan. 27, and after losing their Liberals majority in the October election, will have to work more closely with opposing parties to get the legislation passed.
“We might—because of our parliamentary calendar—be the last parties to ratify, so we’re going to have to try to get to it as quickly as we can,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Toronto’s Citytv channel. The prime minister said he felt confident the government would approve the treaty.
Only time will tell when the new treaty will replace NAFTA. — WLJ