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Senate Dems Carp About USMCA Omitting Climate Change, Still Vote For It

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Most Senate Environment Committee Democrats voted for the new NAFTA deal despite criticizing it for promoting fossil fuel trade and failing to address climate change.

Legislation implementing President Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement sailed through the EPW Committee 16-4 on Tuesday.

“We didn’t get nearly enough in the agreement, far from it,” said Tom Carper of Delaware, the committee’s top Democrat, before voting to approve it. “If it were solely an environmental agreement, I could not vote for it,” he added, saying the USMCA “cannot be considered the template for future trade negotiations.”

“I am very disappointed in the conduct of this committee,” said Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who nonetheless voted to move the bill to the Senate floor because of its “strong” labor provisions. “We have to do far better in our international agreements. Let us not repeat this mistake.”

Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, a Democrat who voted against the new NAFTA, said: “there is no doubt this deal easily wins the record of the most improved on environmental matters,” highlighting enforcement measures for environmental violations.

But that improvement was insufficient compared to “a baseline of terrible, horrible, and no-good, which has been the history of these trade agreements.”

2020 politics, with a debate tonight: The revised NAFTA has also split the shrinking 2020 presidential field, which convenes Tuesday night for the last debate before next month’s Iowa caucuses.

Most candidates have said they’d make climate change central to future trade deals, and not do business with countries that don’t have serious plans to reduce emissions.

But only Bernie Sanders, a member of the EPW committee, said he’d vote against the new NAFTA, saying in the last debate it was an “outrage” the deal doesn’t mention climate change.

Elizabeth Warren, Sanders’ progressive rival, has said she’ll support the trade deal, which critics say boosts fossil fuels by enabling the U.S., Mexico and Canada to maintain “zero-tariff” status for energy products that cross borders, chiefly oil and gas.

It also keeps a provision preserving investor protections for existing energy projects in Mexico.

Read rest at Washington Examiner