The USMCA Offers the U.S. a Model for Politically Acceptable Trade Deals

The USMCA Offers the U.S. a Model for Politically Acceptable Trade Deals
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at a news conference to discuss the USMCA trade agreement, Dec. 10, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington (AP Photo by Andrew Harnik).

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, which entered into force on July 1, 2020, contains some of the most innovative trade standards in any free trade agreement to date. Negotiated under the Trump administration, USMCA passed the U.S. Congress with widespread bipartisan support, gained the approval of the AFL-CIO—the largest U.S. trade union—and could become a template in negotiations for other trade deals.

Yet, since then, the U.S. has retreated from pursuing further free trade agreements, or FTAs, whether under former President Donald Trump, who was hostile to them, or his successor, President Joe Biden, who has historically viewed them more favorably. From the recently launched Indo-Pacific Economic Framework in May to initiatives announced at the Summit of the Americas earlier this month, Biden has adopted an “everything but an FTA” approach to U.S. trade policy, despite widespread demand among U.S. trade partners for deeper U.S. engagement.

Two years after the USMCA’s entry into force, it is worth examining the features that made the deal the most ambitious FTA to date, as they could, if more widely understood and adopted, alter the domestic political debate on trade in the U.S.

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