Schumer calls for improvements to new NAFTA deal

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants MORE (N.Y.) warned on Monday that the Trump administration is going to have to compromise on elements of a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico if it is to have any chance of being implemented by Congress. 

Schumer in a statement Friday said the labor and environmental provisions of the current deal are “too weak.”

“I am most interested in ensuring that any final agreement protects our dairy farmers and that there is real enforcement of new and tough labor provisions. The deal must also raise wages and should recognize that climate change is a grave threat to our countries’ economies and the health and safety of our citizens,” he said. 


President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the new deal Friday morning at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. If approved by Congress, it would replace the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Now it’s Congress’s job to pass implementing legislation, which only needs a simple majority in both chambers under the Trade Promotion Authority law. 

But under that law Congress must review and debate the legislation for a period of 30 days, which means the administration has to send the final document to Capitol Hill later Friday if it is to have any chance of receiving a vote before Democrats take control of the House in January. 

A group of Senate Republicans led by Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) have pushed the administration to send the accord to Congress in time for Republicans to implement it before House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Will Trump's racist tweets backfire? Al Green: 'We have the opportunity to punish' Trump with impeachment vote MORE (Calif.) or another Democrat becomes Speaker.

Democrats refused to ratify the Colombia and South Korea free trade agreements negotiated by President George W. Bush when they controlled the House in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Schumer signaled Friday morning that Democrats will push for tougher labor and environmental provisions. 

“Thankfully, the Congress has a role in crafting ‘implementing legislation’ to make sure the deal benefits and protects middle-class families and working people, and isn’t simply a rebranding of the same old policies that hurt our economy and workers for years,” he said. 

Republicans are also looking for changes to the deal, such as eliminating a 16-year sunset provision that they argue will contribute to uncertainty in the business community. They would also like to limit the president’s ability under the deal to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico for national security reasons, arguing they are close allies and don’t pose a security threat. 

If Congress fails to implement the new deal with Canada and Mexico, known as USMCA, NAFTA would remain in place although Trump could threaten to withdraw from it unilaterally.

Senate aides did not immediately respond to questions Friday morning about whether Congress has received the final accord. Lawmakers said they did not have it as of Thursday. 

Senate Republicans applauded the signing of the new deal as an important step to preserving relationships with the nation’s two biggest trading partners. 

“Now that the ink is dry, I look forward to reviewing the agreement to ensure it’s good for Texas and preserves the millions of jobs that already rely on NAFTA. I appreciate the hard work of the President in getting this done and I stand ready to work with the Administration and my colleagues on this important agreement,” Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal White House abruptly cancels Trump meeting with GOP leaders MORE (R-Texas) said in a statement. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah) signaled Friday that the trade deal would likely wait until the new year. 

“In the coming months, Congress will have the opportunity to debate the details of USMCA and consider how it will impact workers and job creators in this country,” he said. “I encourage my colleagues to take the time to carefully review the agreement and engage in a meaningful dialogue with the administration as intended by Trade Promotion Authority.”

The Business Roundtable indicated in statement Friday that major U.S. companies are willing to work with Democrats over their labor and environmental concerns. 

“We look forward to addressing any issues and then working with the Administration – along with Democrats and Republicans in Congress – to move USMCA across the finish line,” the group said.