A group of U.S. senators is pushing President Donald Trump to fast-track the final text of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement in order to allow a vote in Congress before the end of the year. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., left, and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., speak to reporters about their effort to bring up legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-J. Scott Applewhite

Senators urge Trump to expedite congressional vote on USMCA

The 12 Republican senators are warning of the dangers of getting the trade pact approved in 2019

A group of U.S. senators is pushing President Donald Trump to fast-track the final text of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement so Congress can vote on it before the end of the year — a notion that stretches credulity for lawmakers and observers on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

The 12 Republican senators, including Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander and outgoing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, are warning of the dangers of getting the trade pact approved in 2019, once a new crop of Democratic members are sworn in, comprising a majority in the House of Representatives.

“We are concerned that if the administration waits until next year to send to Congress a draft implementing bill, passage of the USMCA as negotiated will become significantly more difficult,” the senators write in a letter to the White House.

RELATED: Don’t sign USMCA until LGBTQ language excised, U.S. lawmakers urge Trump

“If you choose to pursue consideration of the USMCA before the end of the 115th Congress, we commit to working with you in a consultative manner to draft implementing legislation that could win our votes, as well as a majority in the House and Senate.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said he doesn’t expect Congress to deal with the agreement until sometime next spring — although that was before midterm elections earlier this month upended the balance of power on Capitol Hill.

Since then, a number of House Democrats, including prominent California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, have indicated they will want to see more robust enforcement mechanisms for the agreement’s labour and environment clauses before they would be willing to vote in favour. Insiders, trade experts and federal officials in Ottawa, however, all remain sanguine about the likelihood Congress will eventually ratify the deal.

To expedite a vote, the senators say the White House must submit the final legal text and a draft statement of administrative action before Nov. 30, the date the three countries are expected to sign the agreement when world leaders gather in Buenos Aires for the annual G20 meeting.

However, it’s not at all clear whether Congress — which will be seized next week with the risk of another partial government shutdown — will have either the time or the political impulse to deal with USMCA in an expedited fashion, even if the paperwork can be taken care of before the deadline.

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, the outgoing Senate finance committee chairman, told U.S. website Politico that it’s “not realistic” to expect that the agreement could be passed before the newly elected Congress convenes, a period colloquially known as a lame-duck session.

Nor is it clear when the final legal text of the agreement will be ready.

Government officials in Ottawa say all three countries are in the throes of the legal vetting process, and while it’s moving briskly, compared to the usual glacial pace for trade agreements, it’s not done yet. Asked about the chances of such an early vote, one official pointed out Hatch’s remark by way of reply.

There’s also the outstanding issue of U.S. tariffs on foreign exports of steel and aluminum, purportedly on national-security grounds, which remain in place against Canada and Mexico, as do an array of countermeasures on a variety of U.S. products.

RELATED: British, EU leaders to meet as Brexit deadline looms

Sources close to those ongoing discussions say Canada and the U.S. remain a long way from reaching any sort of an agreement, and expect American talks with Mexico to go down to the wire before next week’s Friday deadline. Opposition critics in Canada have been urging the Liberal government not to sign while the tariffs persist.

Steel and aluminum levies have been imposed on a number of other countries as well, including China, the European Union, Russia and Norway. All six took steps Wednesday towards triggering dispute hearings at the World Trade Organization, Reuters reported.

The U.S. has long argued that because the tariffs were imposed on national-security grounds, using a rarely employed section of American trade law, they fall outside the jurisdiction of the WTO.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Haida hereditary chief is BC Liberal Candidate for North Coast Region

Roy Jones Jr. is named BC Liberal MLA candidate for the North Coast

$3.4 million childcare centre to be built in Lax Kw’alaams

Lax Kw’alaams funding has been approved through the provincial New Spaces Fund

COVID-19 cases grow to 13 at B.C. First Nation near Fort St. James

“This is very serious,” says Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief

Ecosocialists nominate candidate for Stikine

Edward Quinlan is the new party’s regional director for Skeena and Bulkley Valley regions

World Maritime Day – Sept. 24

Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Money laundering inquiry delayed over of B.C. election: commissioner

Austin Cullen says the hearings will start again on Oct. 26

Most Read