Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of Transformed USMCA

December 19, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 5430, the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, which passed on a bipartisan 385 – 41 vote.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, that was while I was watching what was happening with San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.  Sports, sports: the center of our lives.  That's a unifying factor.  We are all for our teams, aren't we, and hopefully we are all Team U.S.A., and now we can prove that on this U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

While I was calling the distinguished Chairman, I was in Brussels for the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.  We had a bipartisan delegation there to thank our veterans, many – all of them in their 90's, many of whom who were there so we could thank them personally and be there to see them acknowledged by heads of state and the rest.  And in terms of Spain, it was about the ‘we are still in it,’ when it comes to the Paris Accord.  So, work, work, work. 

But this was a priority and time was important.  We were trying to get it done as soon as it met the standards that we shared.

I proudly rise to join my colleagues on this exciting day, as the House passes a historic trade agreement that is truly worthy of the American people: a new and dramatically improved U.S.-Canada-Mexico Trade Agreement.

We salute, I salute Chairman Richie Neal: a lifelong champion for working people, the maestro in the House on our side of this process, who has helped deliver a trade agreement that will serve as a model for future trade agreements.

I thank each member of the Trade Working Group, who worked so hard to improve the product that was sent to us originally by the Administration nearly two years ago to where we are now. 

I thank Chairman Earl Blumenauer, Chairman of the Trade Subcommittee walking in now, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Congressman John Larson, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Congressman Mike Thompson, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici and Congressman Jimmy Gomez, each of them working on the different categories I mentioned: enforcement, labor rights, environmental protections and pharmaceuticals.  And I thank every Member for their wisdom, leadership and commitment to delivering for the people during this process. 

I was just asked in a press conference, ‘Aren't you giving’ – Mr. Brady – I was asked this question, ‘Aren't you giving the President a victory to boast about?’  I said that would be collateral benefit if we can do – come together to support America's working families and if the President wants to take credit, so be it.  That would not stand in the way of our passing this. 

However, I do want to point out some of the distance we have come from the President's original product. 

House Democratic Caucus is united in our values and our priority to make progress for America's working families in everything we do, including this trade agreement. 

We all thank Trade Representative Lighthizer, Mr. Ambassador, for being an honest broker and straight shooter with us as we worked toward an agreement. 

Not every day was without its, shall we say, exuberances, but this day is possible because the hard work of many Members representing every corner of our country. 

We thank Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, a true warrior for workers, who helped secure an agreement that is lightyears better than what the Administration proposed two years ago. 

Democrats knew that hard-working Americans needed more from the USMCA than just a broken NAFTA with better language but no real enforcement.  That was my concern.  We just can't come up with a bill that's a little sugar on top and say this is better, because the impact on workers would be felt for a long time.  We knew we could do better. 

The original USMCA draft put forward by the Administration fell far short than where it is now: still left many American workers exposed to losing their jobs to Mexico, included unacceptable provision locking in high drug prices, came up short on key environmental standards, critically lacked the tough, effective enforcement that – enforcements that are essential to protecting American jobs and holding our trading partners accountable to their promises. 

After months of Democrats working with the Trade Representative, we have key changes to the USMCA that make this a truly transformative agreement for America's workers.

Now, with Democrats’ changes, the USMCA now has the strongest enforcement mechanisms of any U.S. trade agreement.

Again, in contrast to the original USMCA draft, which would have allowed nations who did not live up to their obligations to stop enforcement complaints from even being heard, Democrats’ changes prevented nations from ‘panel blocking.’

For workers: while the Administration’s draft stacked the deck against labor violation claims, our changes enact new rules and monitoring tools to protect American workers, prosecute labor violations and ensure that Mexico is complying with labor reforms:

Including – another point is for the workers – including by establishing Labor Attachés based in Mexico that will provide on-the-ground information about Mexico’s labor practices, and by creating facility-specific rapid response labor enforcement mechanism to stop trade in goods that violate this agreement.

This is – these are not technical changes.  These make a big difference.

For the environment: whereas the Administration’s draft had weak environmental rules and tilted the playing field against violation claims, Democrats have strengthened the rules and enforcement tools and are lowering pollution and increasing resilient infrastructure.

Sadly, while the Administration refuses to acknowledge the existence, let alone the urgency of the climate crisis, our changes in the USMCA set a firm footing for progress when we have a President who brings us back to the Paris Accord.  And by the way, while we were in Spain on this subject, our large bicameral delegation's team was, ‘We are still in,’ when it came to the Paris Accord.

And on lowering prescription drug costs: the White House draft contained unacceptable giveaways for Big Pharma that would have locked in high prescription drug prices.

Democrats have eliminated these unfair hand-outs to big corporations, and secured provisions to lower drug costs and improve access to life-saving medicines.

The changes House Democrats have secured in the USMCA make this a truly transformational trade agreement.

As the AFL-CIO wrote in their letter of support last week, ‘We have secured an agreement that working people can proudly support.’ 

‘Working people,’ this is still their quote, ‘are responsible for a deal that is a vast improvement over both the original NAFTA and the flawed proposal brought forward in 2017.   For the first time, there truly will be enforceable labor standards.

‘The USMCA also eliminates special carve outs for corporations like the giveaway to Big Pharma in the Administration’s initial proposal and loopholes designed to make it harder to prosecute labor violations.

‘The USMCA is far from perfect… But there is no denying that the trade rules in America will now be fairer because of our hard work and perseverance.  Working people have created a new standard for future trade negotiations.’

I think that this is in conclusion.  I may have another thought.

Indeed, the strength of Democrats’ USMCA is recognized by endorsements from groups representing tens of millions of Americans, across industries and geographies.

Labor groups and trade organizations, I’ll submit to the record.  Farmers, growers and ranchers, groups representing businesses around the country, social justice and faith-based organizations, such as NETWORK.  The list goes on and on, and it will be part of the statement that I submit to the record.

This is a strong agreement that honors our promises For The People to make – give us bigger paychecks, and makes a difference for millions, with all the respect in the world for our neighbors.  I respect the greatness of Mexico as our neighbor and the friendship that we have and want to engender and our neighbor to the north, Canada, with respect to them.  Our responsibility was to have a trade agreement that lifted all workers in our hemisphere, our first responsibility was to American workers.

I urge a bipartisan vote for the USMCA, and urge Senator McConnell to take the bill up quickly, we can send it right over – he can take the bill up any time.

If the Senate Republicans care about workers, they no doubt will join us to send this bill to the President’s desk – in the House and in the Senate.

With that, I again commend our Chairman Richie Neal for all his hard work.  I know you have a good rapport with the Ranking Member, Brady.

I thank all the Members who are responsible for bringing this to the Floor and yield back the balance of my time.