NAFTA replacement passes Senate, on the way to President Trump

A signature effort for President Donald Trump passed Congress Thursday, with the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement intended to take the place of the 1990s North American Free Trade Agreement passing the Senate 89-10.

Montana Farm Bureau praised the agreement’s passage.

“Montana Farm Bureau has long been pushing for this agreement which will greatly benefit our state’s farmers and ranchers,” MFBF President Hans McPherson said in a press release. “Farm Bureau thanks Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Steve Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte for voting to ratify the agreement.”

The release said USMCA is expected to result in a $65 billion increase in gross domestic product.  Canada will increase quotas on U.S. dairy products, benefitting American dairy farmers by $242 million.  Canada will treat wheat imports the same as domestic wheat for grading and pricing and U.S. beef will continue to have unrestricted, duty-free access with Canada and Mexico.

Sens. Tester and Daines also touted the bill’s passage.

“This trade deal is a big win for our farmers, ranchers, and small businesses across Montana and the country,” Daines, who is up for re-election this year, said in a release. “This deal provides certainty for Montana ag and protects critical access to our two biggest trading partners. I’m thankful for President Trump’s leadership getting this done, and look forward to it being signed into law.”

“Every Montanan working in production ag knows you need certainty and open markets to move your products,” Tester, the Senate’s only working farmer, said in a release. “The USMCA will help Montana producers regain the stability they’ve lost under this administration and makes progress on critical issues like Canada’s discriminatory wheat grading practices. Enforcement is critical for this deal moving forward, but we can’t take our eye off the ball on expanding access to markets around the world so Montana producers have more avenues to turn a profit.”

Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., who has declared he is running for Montana governor, praised the bill in Decembe when it passed the House, though he took a shot at Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, for how long it took.

The agreement, after nearly a year of negotiations, tweaks and revision, passed the House in December on a 385-41 vote.

President Donald Trump started talking about replacing NAFTA early in his tenure. Last year, the U.S., Canada and Mexico came to an agreement, but Pelosi held the bill up in the House while details were worked out.

When the Democrats had made changes to the agreement, Pelosi said in November the draft had been improved, removing problems with U.S. workers potentially losing jobs to Mexico, changing provisions on prescription drug prices, problems with environmental standards and the agreement lacking concrete enforcement methods.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue praised the agreement and its impact on agriculture.

“We’ve long waited for this day and now USMCA will finally head to the president’s desk,” Perdue said in a release Thursday. “The passage of USMCA is great news for America’s farmers and ranchers. With Congressional consideration now complete, our farmers and ranchers are eager to see the President sign this legislation and begin reaping the benefits of this critical agreement. I thank President Trump and Ambassador Lighthizer for successfully delivering an improved and modern trade agreement and working so hard for the people of American agriculture to get this deal across the finish line.”

Tester’s release listed comments from several Montana groups.

“The Montana Grain Growers Association thanks Sen. Tester for supporting Senate passage of the USMCA!” said MGGA President Vince Mattson. “This important trade agreement gives our farmers some stability with two of our largest trading partners in the world. It will serve as a pathway to better markets, improved prices and act as a stepping stone for many more trade agreements in the future.” 

“The Montana Farm Bureau thanks Sen. Tester for his support of the USMCA,” said Montana Farm Bureau President Hans McPherson. “This trade agreement is essential for Montana’s farmers and ranchers to have commerce with two of our largest trading partners. Montana Farm Bureau has been working hard to see this agreement pass, and we truly appreciate Sen. Tester’s dedication to the USMCA and its benefit to Montana agriculture.”

“I appreciate Sen. Tester fighting to bring an end to these unnecessary trade tensions by passing USMCA,” said Montana Farmers Union President Walter Schweitzer. ‘While I am disappointed this deal fails to address important issues like country of origin labeling (COOL), it represents progress in raising labor and environmental standards. Let’s get this done so we can move on to expanding markets for family farmers and ranchers.”

“We are pleased to see positive movement on the Senate side and support from Sen. Tester on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA),” said Montana Stockgrowers Association President Fred Wacker. “This agreement will preserve duty-free, unrestricted access for U.S. beef exports to Canada and Mexico, which will provide our Montana ranchers the certainty they need.”

The American Trucking Associations also commended Congress and the Trump administration for ratification of the agreement, setting the stage for increased free, fair and equitable trade between our three countries, a release said.