Top Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he doesn’t support the U.S.–Mexico–Canada trade agreement because it doesn’t address climate change.
“We could do much better than a Trump–led trade deal. This deal, and I think the proponents of it would acknowledge, will result in the continuation of the loss of hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs as a result of outsourcing,” he said during the Democratic presidential debate in Iowa on Jan. 14.
He said that workers lost jobs because they were forced to compete with workers in Mexico, China, and other countries.
“Second of all, every major environmental organization has said ‘no’ to this new trade agreement because it does not even have the phrase ‘climate change’ in it,” he said.
“And given the fact that climate change is, right now, the greatest threat facing this planet, I will not vote for a trade agreement that does not incorporate very, very strong principles to significantly lower fossil fuel emissions in the world.”
When a moderator noted that the AFL-CIO, one of the biggest unions in the country, supports the deal, Sanders said that the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers does not.
“It is not so easy to put together new trade legislation. If [the USMCA] is passed, it will set us back a number of years,” Sanders said.
The machinists’ union said in a Dec. 12 statement that “USMCA does not fulfill the promise that was made to United States workers to negotiate an agreement that dramatically replaces the current trade template that continues to cost United States workers hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
The House of Representatives passed the trade deal last month shortly after House Democrats gave the green light, saying they’d hammered out a better agreement than the one that was originally proposed with the help of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
House Democrats claimed that they made “transformative changes” to the revised NAFTA deal in the areas of enforcement, workers, environment, and prescription drugs.
Sanders’ comments came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said there would be a vote on USMCA this week before the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, which is expected to start next week.
“We are, it looks like, going to be able to process the USMCA here in the Senate this week,” McConnell told reporters in Washington on Tuesday. “That will be good news for the Senate and for the country, and something I think we have broad bipartisan agreement on.”
Other 2020 Democrat signaled support for the deal during the debate.
“We need a policy that actually helps our workers and our farmers. The USMCA is a modest improvement,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said.
“I believe we should accept that relief, try to help the people who need help, and then we get up the next day and fight for a better trade deal.”
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg added: “Yes, it has been improved, it is not perfect, but when you sit down with the people who are most impacted, they know just how much harm has been done to them.”