“Meanwhile, in today’s non-impeachment news …” has been a familiar phrase of late on cable news.
Years from now, we will recall the impeachment trial of President Trump as a big event in January 2020. But the main news from this month, or years down the road, may be the trade deals this president has been making. These will have lasting impact.
The president describes them as “stunning,” “groundbreaking” and “tremendous” trade-related victories. And he’s on point with that.
Congress passed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, by a 89-10 vote in the Senate and 385-41 in the House.
The House vote came a day after the chamber voted to impeach Trump. A total of 193 Democrats supported the bill after leaders in the House won changes on some provisions as backed by U.S. labor.
The agreement is a modernization of the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect in 1994. Trump had blasted NAFTA during the 2016 campaign.
It addresses some of Trump’s stated concerns with NAFTA — for example, Canada has agreed to reduce its tariffs on American dairy imports — but preserves the overarching framework of that landmark deal.
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Vice President Mike Pence came to Uline Corp. in Pleasant Prairie in October in an effort to “turn up the heat” on Democrats to pass the trade pact.
“There’s a lot to gain in the USMCA,” Pence said at the time. “Last year, the state of Wisconsin alone exported more than $22 billion in goods to Mexico and Canada. Do the math, everybody. The USMCA is a win for Wisconsin and a win for America.”
In addition to the USMCA, Trump this month signed an initial trade deal with China, the world’s second-largest economy in terms of nominal gross domestic product.
The agreement leaves Trump’s tariffs on most Chinese imports in place. It also sets targets for China to buy specific amounts of American exports in the coming years.
“The two momentous trade deals we completed last week are just the beginning of a really incredible story. Because nobody thought we’d ever get here,” the president said during a visit to Texas. “They’d say the deal with China would be impossible to make, and getting rid of NAFTA would be totally impossible.”
There also have been other trade agreements, in particular a $40 billion trade deal with Japan announced last September.
During his Jan. 14 campaign rally in Milwaukee, Trump said the Japan deal “has a lot to do with farmers.” The deal will phase in a $7.5 billion reduction in Japanese tariffs on American farm products while the U.S. cuts tariffs on imported Japanese manufactured goods.
While the long-term effectiveness of the trade deals will be determined through time, and the markets are responding favorably, the changes will last well past impeachment and this president’s service even if he’s re-elected.
Consider that it took 26 years to replace NAFTA. Don’t discount the trade-deal approvals of today.