A group of U.S. senators is pushing President Donald Trump to fast-track the final text of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement in order to allow a vote in Congress before the end of the year. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., left, and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., speak to reporters about their effort to bring up legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-J. Scott Applewhite

Senators urge Trump to expedite congressional vote on USMCA

The 12 Republican senators are warning of the dangers of getting the trade pact approved in 2019

A group of U.S. senators is pushing President Donald Trump to fast-track the final text of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement so Congress can vote on it before the end of the year — a notion that stretches credulity for lawmakers and observers on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

The 12 Republican senators, including Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander and outgoing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, are warning of the dangers of getting the trade pact approved in 2019, once a new crop of Democratic members are sworn in, comprising a majority in the House of Representatives.

“We are concerned that if the administration waits until next year to send to Congress a draft implementing bill, passage of the USMCA as negotiated will become significantly more difficult,” the senators write in a letter to the White House.

RELATED: Don’t sign USMCA until LGBTQ language excised, U.S. lawmakers urge Trump

“If you choose to pursue consideration of the USMCA before the end of the 115th Congress, we commit to working with you in a consultative manner to draft implementing legislation that could win our votes, as well as a majority in the House and Senate.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said he doesn’t expect Congress to deal with the agreement until sometime next spring — although that was before midterm elections earlier this month upended the balance of power on Capitol Hill.

Since then, a number of House Democrats, including prominent California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, have indicated they will want to see more robust enforcement mechanisms for the agreement’s labour and environment clauses before they would be willing to vote in favour. Insiders, trade experts and federal officials in Ottawa, however, all remain sanguine about the likelihood Congress will eventually ratify the deal.

To expedite a vote, the senators say the White House must submit the final legal text and a draft statement of administrative action before Nov. 30, the date the three countries are expected to sign the agreement when world leaders gather in Buenos Aires for the annual G20 meeting.

However, it’s not at all clear whether Congress — which will be seized next week with the risk of another partial government shutdown — will have either the time or the political impulse to deal with USMCA in an expedited fashion, even if the paperwork can be taken care of before the deadline.

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, the outgoing Senate finance committee chairman, told U.S. website Politico that it’s “not realistic” to expect that the agreement could be passed before the newly elected Congress convenes, a period colloquially known as a lame-duck session.

Nor is it clear when the final legal text of the agreement will be ready.

Government officials in Ottawa say all three countries are in the throes of the legal vetting process, and while it’s moving briskly, compared to the usual glacial pace for trade agreements, it’s not done yet. Asked about the chances of such an early vote, one official pointed out Hatch’s remark by way of reply.

There’s also the outstanding issue of U.S. tariffs on foreign exports of steel and aluminum, purportedly on national-security grounds, which remain in place against Canada and Mexico, as do an array of countermeasures on a variety of U.S. products.

RELATED: British, EU leaders to meet as Brexit deadline looms

Sources close to those ongoing discussions say Canada and the U.S. remain a long way from reaching any sort of an agreement, and expect American talks with Mexico to go down to the wire before next week’s Friday deadline. Opposition critics in Canada have been urging the Liberal government not to sign while the tariffs persist.

Steel and aluminum levies have been imposed on a number of other countries as well, including China, the European Union, Russia and Norway. All six took steps Wednesday towards triggering dispute hearings at the World Trade Organization, Reuters reported.

The U.S. has long argued that because the tariffs were imposed on national-security grounds, using a rarely employed section of American trade law, they fall outside the jurisdiction of the WTO.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Tofino opens B.C’s first-ever Express & Go recycling station

New unstaffed facility allows residents to drop-off pre-bagged recyclables without sorting them.

New RCMP detachment officially opens in Tofino

“This is a great facility and I think all of you here should be proud of it.”

VIDEO: Saanich resident shocked when trespasser licks security camera, rummages through mail

‘I found the situation really bizarre,’ said the Gordon Head resident

Tofino’s West Coast Winter Music series warms hearts

Kicking off their 20th anniversary celebration is Pablo Cardenas’ Trio on Nov. 2.

Ucluelet’s Edge-to-Edge Marathon turns 20 this weekend

Over 400 runners get set for half-marathon or 10K distances.

Second young woman dies after rollover crash near Williams Lake

‘Someone’s going to get her heart, which is awesome, because she has the best heart in the world’

Google searches for ‘how to vote’ surge on Election Day

Interest spikes despite social media campaign by Elections Canada

Union says Western Forest Products refuses to budge from ‘unreasonable concessions’

According to a press release, both parties met on Oct. 16, 18, 19, and 20.

Alberta man pleads guilty, fined for hunting without a licence in North Island

It’s the responsibility of each hunter or angler to know whether they are considered a B.C. Resident.

B.C. mayor apologizes for removal of Queen’s portrait from council chambers

‘I prefer to be inclusive of the many aspects of our history’

Alcohol a possible factor in crash that killed 17-year-old girl near Williams Lake

A pickup truck left the road and rolled over on Highway 20 on the weekend

Rare bird spotted in Victoria draws enthusiasts from across the continent

It’s the first time a yellow-browed warbler has been reported on the mainland of North America

B.C. woman must pay $1,000 after unleashed dog bites another

Owner should never have left Bibi unattended, tribunal member wrote

Most Read