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U.S. Senate passes CUSMA trade deal

Canada/U.S. border signage in downtown Detroit. (RiverNorthPhotography/Getty Images)

Washington | Reuters — The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a revamp of the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement that includes tougher rules on labour and automotive content but leaves US$1.2 trillion in annual U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade flows largely unchanged.

The legislation for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (CUSMA) passed on an 89-10 bipartisan vote, sending the measure to President Donald Trump for him to sign into law.

The U.S. House of Representatives, where Democrats hold the majority, passed the legislation on Dec. 19 after insisting on changes to improve enforcement of new labour rights.

Canada still needs to approve the trade deal before it can take effect and replace the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump has blamed NAFTA for the loss of thousands of U.S. factory jobs to low-wage Mexico.

Canada’s Parliament does not return to session until Jan. 27, so the scheduling of a vote there remains unclear. But USMCA is expected to see little resistance in Canada, as Conservatives have said they would back the deal negotiated earlier by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal-dominated government.

“Today the Senate will send this landmark agreement to the president’s desk. A big bipartisan win,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in Senate floor remarks.

The vote comes a day after Trump signed a Phase One trade deal with China, and shortly before the Senate formally began the impeachment trial of Trump on charges that he abused his power.

Writing for Reuters by David Lawder; additional reporting by Andrea Shalal.

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