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STATEMENT: Rep. Denny Heck on House Passage of USMCA


Date: Dec. 19, 2019
Location: Washington D.C.
Issues: Trade

Today, Congressman Denny Heck (WA-10) voted in support of H.R. 5430, legislation to implement the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The new agreement includes significant improvements on labor, the environment, access to prescription drugs, and enforcement. The bill passed by a vote of 385 to 41.

Congressman Heck released the following statement in support of the legislation:

I represent Washington state, one of the most trade dependent states in the country. In the 20 years since NAFTA was enacted, Washington has exported almost $135 billion in goods to Canada and Mexico. Trade is also a huge job creator -- Mexico and Canada currently account for 330,00 jobs across Washington state. Our state's dairy farmers, fruit growers, manufacturers, and countless other workers rely on thoughtful trade policies to support their families.

I arrived in Congress believing there are substantial benefits to trade. I still do. Robust trade reduces the risk of armed conflict and helps the economy overall. After all, freer trade, viewed one way, is simply a market-based economy on a global scale. I believe in a market-based economy and the considerable benefits that flow from it. Markets are beneficial because they generate wealth and make people happier.

At the same time, I recognize the potentially adverse impacts that poorly-conceived trade deals can have on the U.S. economy--resulting in the outsourcing of jobs, lowering of wages, and further degradation of our environment. I'll be frank and say that when the original USMCA trade deal was announced last year, I was skeptical--and frankly worried--about the outcomes it could produce.

But thanks to the hard work of the Speaker and Chairman Neal, those worries have generally been laid to rest.

Is the USMCA a perfect trade deal? No--no trade deal ever is. But as I see it, we have three possibilities: the old NAFTA, no NAFTA, or a new and improved NAFTA. The USMCA is the third of those options, a trade deal that is a significant improvement over the one it will replace.

I have always said that U.S. manufacturing and agricultural workers need better answers on not just appropriate standards but the means and the will to ensure their enforcement. We owe them that promise. Among its provisions, this trade agreement removed language that made it difficult to prove whether our trading partners are living up to commitments to protect workers from violence. It also creates a presumption that a labor violation affects trade and investment, removes flawed language in the Forced Labor provision that rendered it unenforceable, and includes new mechanisms and resources to ensure the U.S. continues to monitor compliance with labor obligations specific to Mexico.

I was also encouraged by the environmental provisions of the USMCA. This strengthens NAFTA's environmental rules by requiring the three countries to fulfill their obligations under several existing environmental agreements, establishes an interagency committee to oversee environmental enforcement, sets up customs verification targeting shipments of illegally taken wild animals or plants, increases environmental infrastructure funding for the North American Development Bank, and invests in the implementation and enforcement of the environmental provisions.

This text also resolves a previous issue with prescription drug affordability by preserving the ability of Congress to bring down high prescription drug costs through pro-competitive reforms, and ensures fair competition between branded and generic drugs.

This trade deal will have wide-ranging consequences on not only the lives of Washingtonians, but also millions of others across the country and around the world. I commend my colleagues on the House Democrats' Trade Working Group for successfully negotiating legislation that reflects our nation's priorities and goals.