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 Carper: “It’s certainly not perfect, and we can, and must, do more going forward. But it is better than we have ever done before and that must be recognized.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. This week, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), senior member of the Senate Finance Committee and the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, spoke on the Senate floor to discuss the environmental measures in the recently passed the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Implementation Act, which is intended to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Senator Carper commended Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) for their leadership on the labor improvements secured by Democrats in the trade agreement and recognized USMCA as a step forward for future multilateral trade agreements. The USMCA Implementation Act passed the Senate by a vote of 89 to 10.

Senator Carper’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, can be found below.

“Madame President, I rise today to discuss the new treaty to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.  Last week, those of us who sit on the Finance Committee had an opportunity to evaluate new NAFTA. Trade deals are often dense agreements that have hundreds of provisions relating to any number of issues. But, ultimately, trade agreements and trade legislation move through the Senate Finance Committee. As a senior member of that committee for many years now, I have considered many trade bills and looked at what impacts those bills would have on American consumers, producers, manufacturers, farmers and businesses. After all, our economy depends on making sure other countries can sell to us and that we can sell to other countries, especially close allies like Canada and Mexico.

“Following years of uncertainty thanks to the President’s haphazard trade wars, I believe this agreement will provide some certainty for those who help drive our economy. Provisions included in the new NAFTA will help our poultry producers gain better access to Canadian markets, which is good news for my home state of Delaware. Further, the new trade deal increases market access for dairy farmers in Delaware, and those across the country, to sell their milk products, like powdered milk, to Canada. The International Trade Commission estimates the increased dairy access will allow for an additional $315 million in exports annually.

“When we evaluate new NAFTA as what it is – a trade deal – I believe that it makes significant improvements on past trade agreements, including the original NAFTA. New NAFTA adds stronger language to ensure that the obligations of all three countries under multilateral environmental agreements, including the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, can be fully enforced.

“Thanks primarily to Democrats, it’s no longer the case that the failure of one NAFTA country to ratify an environmental agreement can be used to prevent the others from being held accountable for failing to honor their obligations. New NAFTA also includes new provisions that have never been included in trade agreements before. Environmental violations will now be treated as trade violations, so when the United States does bring cases under the new NAFTA’s environmental obligations, those cases will be easier to win going forward.

“This agreement also includes significant new wins for coastal states, including binding provisions around overfishing, conservation of marine species and marine debris, which will help us tackle the plastic pollution problem plaguing our oceans. In addition to its $88 million for environmental monitoring, cooperation and enforcement, the new NAFTA creates an enforcement mechanism that gives environmental stakeholders an expanded role in enforcement matters. This will go a long way toward ensuring that environmental violations can be investigated and remedied in a substantive and timely manner.

“I have a friend who, when you ask him how he’s doing, he replies, ‘Compared to what?’ Compared to all the previous trade agreements that this body has considered, new NAFTA and its implementing legislation have the strongest environmental enforcement provisions that we’ve seen to date. That is good news, especially for a trade deal put forth under this Administration.

“Now, does new NAFTA include everything that my Democratic colleagues and I would have liked to see with regard to environmental protection? No, it does not. The new NAFTA fails to recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement. It fails to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which could bring the global community together to reduce the use of HFCs – found in products like air conditioners, freezers, and chillers - and avoid up to a half degree Celsius increase in global warming by the end of the century.  And like so many of the Trump Administration’s proposals, the new NAFTA fails to even mention the words “climate change.” But this trade agreement adds important tools and resources that were negotiated by Democrats to strengthen the deal, hold the Administration accountable to enforce NAFTA countries’ environmental obligations, and help ensure that those who break the rules are actually held accountable.

“Madame President, as the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee here in the Senate, I am especially aware of the extreme and destructive environmental policies put forth by the Trump Administration. Week after week, I have fought against their reckless rollbacks, too many unbelievably unqualified nominees and their relentless attempts to chip away at our nation’s bedrock environmental protections. We know what to expect from this Administration when it comes to environmental policy.

“As a result, I know that the environmental provisions in the new NAFTA – thanks to the hard work of primarily Democrats in both the House and the Senate – is far stronger than where we started.

“It’s certainly not perfect, and we can, and must, do more going forward. But it is better than we have ever done before and that must be recognized. 

“I want to pause for a moment here to thank U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his staff for their hard work and willingness to engage with myself and my colleagues.

“I’ll end with this, Madame President. While it is good news that we were able to reach an agreement on the new NAFTA, I want to caution my colleagues that the uncertainty caused by President Trump’s reckless approach to trade is far from over. President Trump’s multi-front trade war with our allies and other trading partners is nearing on two years now. That’s two years of American farmers, manufacturers, retailers, and small businesses experiencing increased costs from President Trump’s tariffs while simultaneously being locked out of overseas markets due to retaliatory tariffs. That’s two years of uncertainty and disruption for American businesses that have had to put investment and hiring decisions on hold. And two years of uncertainty for American workers who aren’t sure if their jobs will continue to exist as the trade wars drag on.

“And where has that gotten us? A limited trade agreement with Japan that may be better than nothing, but is merely an attempt to cover up some of the negative effects that withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has had on our economy and our global competitiveness. As you might recall, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiated by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman during the Obama Administration, was a multilateral 12-nation trading bloc that included 40 percent of the world’s economy, with China on the outside looking in. I’m still reviewing the text of the “phase one” China trade deal signed today, but from what I’ve seen, the agreement falls far short of the structural reforms to China’s planned economy that President Trump has promised.

“As we enter this new year and new decade, I sincerely hope that President Trump will rethink his senseless approach to trade and return to a multilateral approach – like we had with TPP – where the United States works with our allies and trading partners to constructively write the global rules of trade.”

A full video of Senator Carper’s remarks can be found here.