Neal Opening Statement at Markup of WTO Resolution and USMCA Implementing Legislation
Dec 17, 2019
(As prepared for delivery)
Good morning. Today we will consider the USMCA, a transformative agreement that creates a new highwater mark for U.S. trade deals moving forward. The implementing bill before us is the result of many months of negotiations between the House Democrats and Ambassador Lighthizer, and I’m very proud of the outcome we’ve reached.
When we assumed the majority this year, we were asked to consider a renegotiated NAFTA that had structural flaws in a number of key areas: enforcement, labor rights, environment, and access to medicines.
I’ll start with enforcement, which was the crux of the deal. As I’ve noted many times over the past year, I did not vote for the original NAFTA, and the chief reason was a lack of enforceability. In the past 25 years we’ve seen the shortcoming of the original agreement, much of which comes down to a lack of enforcement, in my view.
House Democrats fixed that issue. The improvements to the USMCA that we negotiated finally make the agreement enforceable by preventing a country from being able to block the formation of a dispute settlement panel.
On labor, our trade agreements have failed American workers. NAFTA has been symbolic of our broken promises to our workers. Over 25 years of the NAFTA, there have been 39 petitions filed documenting the exploitation of workers, and zero enforcement actions to remedy those violations.
In close partnership with our labor unions and with the robust support of the Ways and Means Committee Democrats, we negotiated improvements to the rules and to our monitoring regime, and we established a new enforcement mechanism.
On the rules, we strengthened certain provisions and addressed obstacles to enforcement in others. On monitoring, for the first time we have created a proactive monitoring regime for the labor obligations in a trade agreement. The implementing bill establishes an Interagency Labor Committee that will actively monitor Mexico’s compliance and report to Congress.
On enforcement, we negotiated a historic mechanism never included in a trade agreement before. As a result of House Democrats’ efforts, we will now have a facility-specific, rapid response mechanism to address violations of key labor obligations.
We have also made great improvements to the environment provisions. The USCMA will now include the highest environmental standards of any trade agreement and will include a new customs verification agreement to enhance enforcement. The implementing bill also secures more than $600 million in funding for environmental problems in the NAFTA region and reauthorizes the North American Development Bank.
With the dedication of the Working Group Members appointed by the Speaker, we also secured important changes in the USMCA that preserve Congress’s ability to change U.S. law to address the crisis we face with respect to high prescription drug prices.
These changes set a new standard for U.S. trade agreements and demonstrate that trade agreements can achieve broad bipartisan support if they empower workers, protect patients’ access to affordable health care, and improve our shared environment. I’m proud to support this agreement and the implementing bill before us.
But before we consider this historic implementing legislation today, we will first take up House Resolution 746, a bipartisan measure that reaffirms the United States commitment to the World Trade Organization. I commend our colleague Ron Kind for his work on this important bipartisan resolution.
With that, I’ll recognize Ranking Member Brady for any opening remarks he would like to make.