Cantwell: USMCA More Trumka Than Trump

United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement advances out of Senate Finance Committee on bipartisan vote; USMCA includes Cantwell provisions to strengthen labor enforcement, worker rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, voted to advance the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The committee approved the legislation by a bipartisan vote of 25 to 3. The USMCA, passed last month by the U.S. House of Representatives, includes new tools, education, and training that Cantwell pushed for to strengthen the enforcement of labor standards in Mexico and level the playing field for American workers.

“This is a roadmap for where we need to go,” Senator Cantwell said. “This is the first time that I know of where business and labor are in agreement about how to make the rules of the road.”

Specifically, Cantwell’s provisions would provide U.S. technical assistance through the U.S. Department of Labor over four years to support reforms of the Mexican labor justice system, worker-focused capacity building, and efforts to reduce child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking in Mexico. The bill will also provide support over eight years for additional U.S. government capacity to monitor compliance with labor obligations under the USMCA.

“This is a far cry from building a wall. So in a lot of ways, this bill is a lot more Trumka than it is Trump,” Cantwell said, referring to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

The inclusion of these provisions comes after Cantwell urged the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to support this critical assistance, introduced legislation to provide technical assistance for trade enforcement programs, and worked with congressional leaders to ensure it was included in the deal.

Cantwell also worked with Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to provide for the creation of a new mechanism for monitoring, verifying, and enforcing labor rights in Mexico that are required by the USMCA.

Senator Cantwell pointed out that the Trade Enforcement Trust Fund, which she created in the 2015 Customs bill, gave USTR additional capacity to help level the playing field for U.S. companies and workers.

“If we want to make trade work in countries that don’t really understand how to make it work successfully, we can demand all we want, but the United States of America has to be a willing partner in building capacity [in those countries],” Senator Cantwell continued today.

The USMCA deal advanced today also includes important updates to boost Washington state exports, including agricultural, dairy, and technology products. The agreement adds rules on digital trade to ensure the free flow of digital goods and information across borders and it restricts data localization requirements that limit where data must be stored. The USMCA ensures duty-free access for digital products like software, videos, and music, critical to Washington state’s multi-billion dollar export economy for digital goods. Other important provisions, such as the duty-free access to Canada and Mexico for U.S. agricultural exports that was first achieved under NAFTA, are maintained in the USMCA.

Trade with Canada and Mexico is critical for Washington state, the third-highest exporting state in the country. In 2018, Washington state exported roughly $9.3 billion in goods to Canada and $2.2 billion in goods to Mexico, helping to create more than 330,000 jobs statewide. From 2013-2016, Mexico was the top international market for Washington state apples, buying an average of 12.3 million cartons per year, with Canada second at 6.3 million cartons a year.

Cantwell has prioritized trade throughout her time in the Senate. In 2015, she worked to create the Trade Enforcement Trust Fund, which provides resources for enforcement actions and helps agencies in charge of enforcing international trade agreements build capacity with trading partners on environmental, labor, intellectual property, and other issues. Since its creation, the Trade Enforcement Trust Fund has been used to prevent the export of illegally harvested logs from South America, to challenge European subsidies for the development of commercial aircraft at the World Trade Organization, and to stop limitations on wheat exports to China.

In December, Cantwell called on the USTR to support the inclusion of capacity building funding in the USMCA. Cantwell has also been a strong proponent of the Export-Import Bank – she helped secure a seven-year reauthorization of the bank in the spending bills passed by Congress last month – and a champion of the small businesses supported by its activities.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s remarks at today’s committee hearing is available HERE, audio is available HERE, and a transcript can be found HERE.