Kelly, Thompson hopeful new trade deal will pass by year's end
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Democrats insist Congress’s top issues won’t take a backseat to the impeachment inquiry. Now, our local lawmakers feel like one of them could wrap up pretty soon.
U.S. Reps. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) are voicing their concerns on another big issue: the new North American trade deal, known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. That has been stalled in Congress throughout the summer, and they are urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring it up for a vote before the end of the year.
Both Kelly and Thompson are optimistic the deal will pass the House by the end of the year.
On Monday, in an email to colleagues, Pelosi herself has said Democrats are making progress with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to strike an agreement.
But before the house votes, Pelosi wants to make sure the agreement is enforceable, and that environmental and labor regulations are intact.
Kelly feels those issues are already resolved. He’s on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which oversees trade policy.
“The USMCA is a very strong piece of legislation for us,” Kelly said. “Sticking with what we had or abandoning any trade agreement at all would be the worst thing we can do.”
Republicans say the USMCA would modernize the 1990s era North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
President Trump has called that perhaps the worst trade deal in U.S. history.
One of the big industries this affects is agriculture, including provisions allowing U.S. dairy exports to be sold at more competitive prices, and increasing access to the dairy market in Canada. Supporters argue that could be a boost for farmers in Northwestern Pa.
Thompson is a top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee. Some Democrats are telling him they want this done soon, too.
“They talked with the Speaker, they talked with key chairmen on the Democratic side and it looked really positive,” Thompson told Erie News Now last week. “At that point, I really expect within the next 30 days that we’ll be able to get the USMCA done.”
Thompson could be in line to chair the Agriculture Committee if he wins reelection in 2020 and Republicans regain the House. Thompson confirmed to Erie News Now he is seeking that position.
The committee’s top Republican, former chair and now Ranking Member Mike Conaway (R-Texas), is retiring at the end of his term.