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

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

Kelly Chadwick of Port McNeill tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 3. (Submitted)
Port McNeill mother confirms positive COVID-19 test

The mother of two is self-isolating and following all protocols

Port Hardy Museum curator Jane Hutton is looking to find out who is in this photo. (Port Hardy Museum photo)
Port Hardy museum wants to know if you can identify who’s in this photo

If you can help with identifying the photo, please contact 250-949-8143.

Speed limit change on Hwy 19 north of Port McNeill. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
New speed limit near Cluxewe Resort on Hwy 19

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure made the change Dec. 1

Felled spruce and cedar trees waiting to be stripped, sorted and hauled down Island. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Kwakiutl First Nation angry at logging in Douglas Treaty land

The nation is calling on government to honour the Douglas Treaty

The Christmas Tree being put back up in the Thunderbird Mall parking lot. (Thunderbird Mall photo)
Giant Christmas tree returns to Thunderbird Mall Parking lot

At the end of the 2019, extreme winds knocked over the community Christmas tree.

A snow moon rises over Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on Feb. 8, 2020. Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 is Mountain Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

Carmen Robinson was last seen getting off a bus in View Royal the evening of Dec. 8, 1973. Her case remains unsolved 47 years later. (Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers)
Gone cold: Fate of B.C. teen remains a mystery, 47 years after her disappearance

Carmen Robinson, 17, was last seen exiting a bus near Victoria in December 1973

Most Read