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US Senate approves new North American trade deal

AFP
Washington
The US Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to approve a new North American trade pact, handing President Donald Trump a second back-to-back trade win just as his impeachment trial was beginning in Washington.
After a brief debate, lawmakers voted 89-10 in favour of a bill allowing the US-Mexico-Canada agreement to take effect, overhauling trade relations among the three countries.
The USMCA bill faced some opposition -- including from Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who said it failed to address the threat of climate change -- and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who complained that it erected barriers to free trade.
Given that the USMCA was negotiated at his instigation, Trump’s signature is not in doubt, however.
In split-screen drama and with the vote scarcely concluded, House lawmakers who will serve as prosecutors in Trump’s trial gathered in the well of the Senate bearing articles of impeachment which were later read aloud to the chamber -- setting the historic proceedings in motion.
The second straight day of good news on the trade front offered a welcome boost for the embattled president, who faces a tough re-election fight 10 months from now.
Adoption of the continent-wide agreement comes less than a day after Washington and Beijing reached a separate partial deal, pausing a damaging trade war between the world’s top two economies and letting farmers and businesses breathe a sigh of relief.
In an internet video, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador hailed the USMCA’s Senate passage, calling the news “very meaningful” as it signalled “more confidence in Mexico” and would lead to growth and investment.
The USMCA is billed as an update to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump had long lambasted as a job killer and threatened to scrap outright.
House lawmakers voted last month to adopt the USMCA after winning changes to the text, including stronger guarantees that Mexican labor reforms can be enforced, as well as changes governing medications and environmental standards.
“Today, the Senate passed a USMCA that has been transformed by Democrats’ leadership,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Mexican lawmakers adopted those changes last month while Canada has yet to vote on the text, the final step for it to enter into force.
Trump had long blamed NAFTA for the offshoring of American jobs.