WASHINGTON D.C. – The United States House of Representatives has passed a new North American trade deal.
The United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) is a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The trade deal has been held up in the House since being signed by the leaders of the three nations in November 2018 but the version passed in the House was slightly different from the one signed.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles says it’s important to get the deal ratified as soon as possible.
“From our research, it shows that for agriculture it’s overall a positive move forward for Kentucky,” Quarles said. “When it is passed and becomes law it allows the U.S. to tell other countries, like China, Japan, the after-effects of Brexit, that yes we can get trade deals done in America and we want to trade with you as well.”
Many Republicans expressed frustrations over how long it took for the House to vote on the trade deal saying it was being held up because of partisan politics. Quarles says trade deals do take a while but House Democrat’s focus on impeaching President Donald Trump made the process take even longer.
“That’s unfortunate because Kentucky farmers and our manufacturers need this trade deal yesterday,” Quarles said. “I know that the impeachment process has been a big distraction, it’ s been a hyper-partisan exercise it has delayed economic benefits that United States could have been realized months ago if Congress focused on getting stuff done.”
Quarles is hopeful USMCA can help improve in the areas where NAFTA lacked.
“There are several examples in agriculture such as dairy discrimination policies in Canada that we’ve had to deal with 25 years and these are things that needed to be fixed,” Quarles said. “I think USMCA was an opportunity to take a trade deal that helped expand agriculture but make it better.”
20 percent of all Kentucky agriculture products go to Canada and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture estimate Kentucky will boast $213 million in agriculture exports to Canada and $49 million in exports to Mexico under USMCA.
A Kentucky Congressman is also celebrating the passage.
“The economic opportunity this agreement will provide for farmers, middle-class workers, and new and existing businesses is significant,” U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Paducah, said in a statement. “ I’m excited to see us finally take action on one of President Trump’s major priorities and look forward to seeing the deal fully ratified by Congress.”
Sixth District Congressman Andy Barr says this trade deal will boost the economy.
“In addition to strengthening our automotive, agriculture and bourbon industries, this trade deal will give us much better leverage as we negotiate better, freer, and fairer trade deals with countries like Japan, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and China,” he said in a statement. “My only regret is that it took Speaker Pelosi more than six months to bring this critical, bipartisan legislation to the House floor for a vote.”
The Senate is not expected to take up the trade deal until after the New Year.
Mexico is the only country to have ratified the agreement.