Senate expected to give Trump back-to-back trade victories

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WASHINGTON (AP) – One day after signing a new trade deal with China, President Donald Trump is expected to get more good news on his trade agenda as the Senate considers a new North American pact.

The House has already overwhelmingly approved the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The Senate is expected to do the same on Thursday and send the measure to Trump’s desk for his signature before it turns to articles of impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the pact as a “major win for the Trump administration, a major win for those of us who are already ready to move past this season of toxic political noise.”

Trump blamed the current trade pact with Canada and Mexico, the North American Free Trade Agreement, for sending millions of manufacturing jobs to low-wage plants south of the U.S. border. His administration secured changes that aim to have more cars produced where workers earn an average of at least $16 an hour. It also secured changes that require Mexico to change its laws to make it easier for workers to form independent unions, which should improve worker conditions and wages and reduce the incentive for U.S. companies to relocate their plants.

While the administration completed its negotiations with Canada and Mexico more than a year ago, Democrats in the House insisted on changes to the pact that they say make it more likely Mexico will follow through on its commitments. As part of those negotiations, the administration agreed to drop a provision that offered expensive biologic drugs – made from living cells – 10 years of protection from cheaper knockoff competition.

Republicans and the president have complained about how long it took to complete the negotiations, but the talks resulted in a rare mix of support for USMCA. The AFL-CIO, an association of trade unions, endorsed the measure along with scores of business and farm groups. The biggest holdouts are environmental groups, which continue to oppose the measure because it doesn’t address climate change. Indeed, they contend the agreement would contribute to rising temperatures.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., marveled Wednesday at how leaders of organized labor and farm groups in his state appeared together to support the pact.

“They both agree that this USMCA trade agreement is a step forward, an improvement over the original NAFTA,” Durbin said. “I think we’ve added to this process by making it truly bipartisan.”

President Donald Trump, gestures during a signing ceremony with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He to sign a U,S, China trade agreement, in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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