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September is for USMCA Deal-Making, Says Grassley

Congress “ought to take action early this fall” on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) so the trade pact can take effect before the end of the year, said Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley on Tuesday. Grassley told reporters that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expects to reach agreement this month with House Democrats on modification of USMCA, opening the door to a vote.

“Lighthizer figures this is all going to be done in negotiations during September,” said Grassley, who spoke to the trade representative a few days ago. As Finance chairman, Grassley will have a lead role in Senate action on the USMCA, but the Constitution says the House must vote first. “I’m convinced it will pass” once a House vote is called, he said.

Approval of the free trade agreement would would be a significant victory for President Trump, who faces reelection in 2020. “It strengthens the president’s hand” in dealing with China and other nations, said Grassley.

Farm groups, Republicans in Congress, and members of the Trump cabinet turned up the volume this week in urging a House vote. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue posted at least five tweets in support of USMCA on Tuesday. Farm groups and lawmakers including House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson plan to rally for USMCA on Thursday at the foot of Capital Hill.

Lighthizer worked with House Democrats throughout the summer to resolve their concerns about labor and environmental standards in the USMCA and how to assure the pact is enforced. “I think we’re making progress in that,” Lighthizer told USDA radio.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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