Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) came out against a massive trade deal pending before Congress, saying during Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate that he will vote against the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“This is a modest improvement over what we have right now,” Sanders said. “But at the end of the day in my view, it is not going to stop outsourcing. It is not going to stop corporations from moving to Mexico.”
The House on Thursday night passed USMCA ― a renegotiation of 1994′s North American Free Trade Agreement ― with strong bipartisan support, 385-41. Sanders guaranteed the deal will have some push back when it gets to the Senate.
House Democratic leaders saw passing USMCA as an opportunity to show that the party was not only focused on impeachment. Its passage in the House was also a big win for President Donald Trump, who campaigned on leaving and renegotiating NAFTA.
The new trade pact makes modest changes to NAFTA, giving the U.S. a little more access into the Canadian dairy market, pushing Mexico to improve labor laws and tightening rules concerning the automotive industry. The AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of labor unions which opposed NAFTA and has decried many of its effects, supported the passage of USMCA.
That was enough for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to sign on as a supporter, she said at Thursday’s debate that featured seven White House contenders.
“I believe that we have a change with this agreement,” Klobuchar said, saying she decided to support the pact after Democrats were able to win concessions to strengthen its labor, environmental and drug-pricing provisions. She also noted that Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who like Sanders has been a critic of major trade deals, is supporting USMCA.
But Sanders pointed out that the final agreement made no mention of “climate change. And he said the concessions were too modest to win him over.
Sanders has long been a vocal trade skeptic, and has voted against every major trade agreement during his almost three decades in Congress.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the other presidential contender on the debate stage who faces a vote on USMCA, did not comment on the question about it and hasn’t announced a position on the trade deal.
It’s not yet clear when the USMCA will come up for a vote in the Senate.