The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a revamped 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement that includes tougher rules on labor and automotive content, a move that has received strong support from Gov. Chris Sununu and business groups here in the Granite State.
The legislation to implement the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) passed on an 89-10 bipartisan vote, sending it to President Donald Trump for him to sign into law. The measure leaves $1.2 trillion in annual U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade flows largely unchanged.
Both New Hampshire Democratic senators, Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, voted in favor of the agreement.
The agreement will “level the playing field for New Hampshire businesses and consumers, support our small businesses and dairy farmers, and cut red tape for our businesses,” Hassan said.
“Thanks to the good-faith efforts of Democrats and Republicans alike, the USMCA will help businesses and consumers thrive and includes key labor and environmental enforcement standards,” she said in a statement.
Shaheen says “international trade has long spurred New Hampshire’s economy, creating good paying jobs and opportunities for small businesses.” She is proud of the bipartisan progress on the issue.
“This trade deal makes improvements to NAFTA that will help empower Granite State businesses while protecting American workers and safeguarding our environment,” she said in a statement. “I was very pleased that this agreement was substantially improved by the priorities pressed by Democratic leaders in Congress in negotiations with the Trump administration.”
Sununu supported the passage of the deal in a tweet Thursday afternoon.
“Congress finally did their job,” he said. “As I have said from the beginning, the #USMCA will strengthen our economy, lead to more jobs for NH, and increase access for Granite State businesses. I look forward to @POTUS signing this historic 21st Century trade agreement into law.”
The Senate vote came a day after Trump signed a long-awaited Phase 1 trade deal with China, and shortly before the Senate formally began the impeachment trial of Trump on charges that he abused his power.
Trump made renegotiating NAFTA a centerpiece of his 2016 election campaign, calling it “the worst trade deal ever made” and blaming it for the loss of thousands of American factory jobs to low-wage Mexico.
He had threatened to cancel NAFTA outright unless Congress acted to approve the replacement deal, sparking uncertainty among business owners and putting a damper on new investment.
Industry groups hailed the trade agreement and said it would provide sorely needed certainty to revive investment flows.
The Business & Industry Association of NH advocated for the agreement.
“This is an important trade pact for New Hampshire businesses, particularly manufacturers and technology companies,” said Jim Roche, BIA president, in a statement. “Our North American neighbors make up the state’s largest trading bloc. Approval of USMCA will protect jobs and maintain New Hampshire’s access to a $1.4 billion market.”