WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — With the U.S. Capitol towering in the background, Democrats and Republicans promised some of the biggest names in farming that they will approve a deal between the U.S. and its two biggest trade partners before the end of the year.
“We will get this agreement done,” said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).
“Canada wants this, Mexico wants this, our farmers want this, our business and industries want this, so let’s get this done,” said U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tennessee).
The agreement to replace NAFTA— called USMCA— is one of President Trump’s biggest priorities ahead of the 2020 election.
But Democrats, who control the House, still have concerns about how it will affect labor rules, drug costs, and environmental protections.
The Trump administration gave them a counter offer Wednesday. While Democrats wade through the specifics, one of them says it’s better than the alternative.
“To have no agreement and I think that would be disastrous to our economy as well as our neighbors to the south and the north,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Costa (D-California).
Farmers caution Congress their time is running out.
“It’s kind of been a perfect storm for a lot of midwesterners between some of the weather challenges that we have faced on top of the trade deal challenges that we’re facing,” said Kolesen McCoy, a future Ohio farmer.
Farmers for Free Trade traveled 20,000 miles across the country to encourage the agriculture industry to support the deal.
“My dad said it’s a blessing to live in this wonderful Democratic Republic we live in but what makes it work is when people who are governed participate in it,” said Blanche Lincoln, a Farmers for Free trade spokesperson.
Now back in Washington, lawmakers and lobbyists will see if their work was enough to bring USMCA to a floor vote in the House.
The deal would expand American access to the Canadian dairy market, put stricter rules on car parts and modernize copyright and digital trade rules.
According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. exported nearly $300 billion in products to Canada last year and $265 billion to Mexico.