U.S. House Passes Replacement For North American Free Trade Agreement

Many Texas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have urged the agreement’s passage, due to the state’s reliance on cross-border commerce with Mexico.

Martin do Nascimento for The Texas Tribune
Freight trains cross the Rio Grande river near the Laredo Convent Avenue Port of Entry between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo.

The U.S. House passed a major trade deal on Thursday that will reset the economic relationships within North America.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement passed with a 385-41 vote and will now head to the Senate, which is expected to approve it next year. The deal will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, a 1994 agreement that dramatically changed the landscape of the Texas economy. While the three countries announced the agreement a year ago, the deal hit some turbulence in the Democratically-controlled House.

Many Texas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have urged its passage, due to the state’s reliance on cross-border commerce with Mexico. Texas has more ports of entry with Mexico — or any country, for that matter — than any other state in the U.S. In a sign of the trade deal’s importance to the state, all Texans in the House voted in favor of it.

“It is a victory for Texas workers, businesses and communities, as trade between our home state and our North American neighbors supports nearly one million jobs, and results in billions of dollars flowing into our economy,” said U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin. “This agreement is about growth and certainty for our country, and it sends the message that we are going to lead the world."

Should it pass the Senate, the USMCA will be the capstone of President Donald Trump’s economic agenda.

A number of Texans were closely involved in passage, thanks to assignments on the Ways and Means Committee and the number of Texans who represent the border.

The new, Trump-negotiated deal will have many similarities with the old agreement, but there are some differences. The changes that will most impact Texans include increased enforcement of labor and environmental laws and an increase in the threshold of how much of a car must be manufactured in a country to avoid tariffs.

It is unclear when the Senate will take up the legislation. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated in recent days that he would not address the matter until the conclusion of Trump’s coming impeachment trial. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not publicly determine Wednesday night when she would take the case to the Senate.

This piece was originally published in The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.