WASHINGTON — On the eve of a key hearing, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, has endorsed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The Senate Finance Committee on which Hassan serves will discuss and make a recommendation on the trade deal, Senate officials said.
Hassan spelled out the criteria she applies to all these proposals.
“International trade — when done right — helps business and consumers alike by expanding opportunity, reducing costs, and boosting economic growth,” Hassan said.
“In evaluating any trade deal, including the USMCA, I use two key benchmarks. First, trade deals must help to level the playing field for New Hampshire’s and our country’s innovative businesses that are competing in the global economy. And second, trade deals must contain strong enforcement mechanisms that protect workers, consumers, and the environment.”
Following the 2018 midterm elections, Hassan was awarded a seat on the Senate panel that deals with all trade and tax matters.
“After carefully considering the provisions and listening to businesses and people across our state, I believe that the bipartisan USMCA now meets both those standards, and I support implementing this agreement,” Hassan said in a statement to the Union Leader.
The senator and former governor praised the changes negotiators made to a proposal the Trump administration had first worked out.
“I am particularly pleased that the agreement boosts New Hampshire businesses’ ability to be competitive in the global economy, cuts red tape and tariffs for small exporters, and removes long-standing trade barriers that have prevented dairy farmers in New Hampshire and other states from accessing the Canadian market,” Hassan said.
The USMCA replaces the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, which President Trump called one of the “worst trade deals” in American history.
Canada was by far New Hampshire’s number-one source of foreign goods imported into the state, worth more than $5 billion in 2018, according to the International Trade Administration and U.S. Trade Online. China was a distant second with $1 billion and Mexico was sixth ($396 million).
As for exports from New Hampshire, Germany ($691 million) was No. 1, followed closely by Canada ($668 million), Ireland ($443 million) and Mexico ($420 million).
The agreement passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. House last month.
U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, said he had written letters to Trump’s trade team urging them to make critical changes to a drug-pricing provision.
The final deal removes what had been a 10-year protection period for these drugs, which critics maintain would have allowed drug companies to keep prices high.
Another significant change in the final version was including a provision permitting American inspectors to enter Mexican factories to check for labor violations.
Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, also cited those changes as key to getting her support.
“And in addition to the strong labor and environmental enforcement mechanisms, the agreement also helps protect consumers from soaring pharmaceutical prices by eliminating provisions that would have shielded brand-name drugs from competition,” Hassan said.
“I appreciate the diligence and good-faith efforts of both Democratic and Republican negotiators on the USMCA, and I will continue to work across the aisle to promote trade that boosts our New Hampshire economy and protects workers and consumers alike.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, has said she supports trade deals that promote job growth at home.
“Trade plays a critical role in our New Hampshire economy, supporting job creation, expanding markets and creating growth for our small businesses. I am pleased to hear bipartisan progress is being made on negotiations between the United States, Mexico and Canada,” Shaheen said in a recent statement.
Late last week, the trade deal opened a rift between two leading Democratic presidential candidates.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., announced last Friday she would vote for the USMCA after having said in 2018 she would not vote for what she had called “NAFTA 2.0.”
“We really need trade negotiations going forward that make sure anyone who wants access to our markets is actually helping us in the fight against climate change and helping build an economy that works for everybody in the U.S.,” Warren said.
During a speech in November 2018, Warren said she would not support “NAFTA 2.0: unless the President “reopens the agreement and produces a better deal for America’s working families.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said during the most recent presidential debate last month that he’s still against it.
“But at the end of the day, in my view, it is not going to stop outsourcing. It is not going to stop corporations from moving to Mexico, where manufacturing workers make less than $2 an hour ... So, no, I will not be voting for this agreement,” said Sanders, who won New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary in 2016.