President Trump on Friday pushed for Congress to “immediately” approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), arguing in a Wisconsin speech that his administration is moving the country past “stupid years” of trade policies.
Bashing the economic policies of previous administrations, saying they allowed factories to close, Trump said in Milwaukee: "Those days are over…I call them the stupid years. But now we're back into the really smart years.”
Standing in front of a backdrop with the letters “USMCA," Trump pushed Congress to approve the new trade deal "and send it to my desk immediately." The president was visiting Derco Aerospace Inc., a subsidiary of aviation giant Lockheed Martin that provides parts, logistics and repair services to fixed-wing aircraft.
“We shouldn’t be playing around," Trump said. "And every day that goes by, it gets more and more political, because we get closer and closer to the election.”
At Trump’s insistence, the U.S., Canada and Mexico agreed to an update of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But the new agreement faces opposition from many House Democratic lawmakers and labor unions.
“NAFTA was a disaster for this country and we’re going to be replacing that very soon, hopefully with the USMCA,” Trump said.
Canada and Mexico are Wisconsin's top two foreign export markets. Last year, the state exported $31 million worth of products to Canada and $15.2 million worth of products to Mexico, according to census data.
“Let it be a bipartisan bill,” Trump said Friday. “I don’t want credit for it. Let it be a partisan bill, the USMCA. For years, members of Congress have demanded a replacement to NAFTA. Now they finally have the best replacement that they could ever even imagine.”
In the end, it comes down to whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would bring a bill to the House floor that would implement the necessary changes to enact the new deal. Pelosi insists that changes are needed to generate Democratic support, and has appointed a working group to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on finding ways to ease Democratic lawmakers’ concerns.
Mexico last month became the first of the three nations to ratify the agreement.
The White House recently moved to ease the passage of the agreement by lifting tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico.
Labor unions, a key Democratic constituency, are seeking assurances that Mexico will enforce enhanced labor standards for workers there because that would reduce the incentive for U.S. companies to move their plants and jobs south of the border. The new deal requires Mexico to encourage independent unions that will bargain for higher wages and better working conditions.
Democrats are also voicing concerns over language that would give pharmaceutical companies 10 years’ protection from cheaper competition in a category of ultra-expensive drugs called biologics, which are made from living cells. The need to curb high drug prices has become a rallying cry for voters of all political stripes.
Fox News’ Frank Miles and The Associated Press contributed to this report.