Ruth Conniff

Why Pocan Voted No on Trade Deal

Madison Democrat the only state representative to oppose historic revision of NAFTA.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - Dec 20th, 2019 11:20 am
Mark Pocan

Mark Pocan

The House of Representatives voted today  to ratify a massive trade deal with Mexico and Canada, allowing both House Democrats and the Trump administration to declare a legislative victory on the day after the House voted to impeach the president.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect a quarter century ago. Proponents say the “new NAFTA” will grow the economy, support workers, protect the environment and create a more level playing field between the United States and Mexico and Canada.

The deal passed by a bipartisan vote of 385 to 41, with five members not voting.

Among the yes votes were Wisconsin Representatives Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee), Bryan Steil (R-Janesville), Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbuelah), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Brookfield), Mike Gallagher (R-De Pere) and Ron Kind (D-La Crosse).

“For months, my colleagues and I worked to get a trade deal that ensures a level playing field for Wisconsin farmers, workers, and families, keeps jobs in the United States, and makes this deal enforceable,” Kind said in a statement. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done. This deal is a great example of what can be accomplished when people work across the aisle to get things done and should serve as the template for all future trade agreement negotiations.”

“I now encourage Senate Majority Leader McConnell to not let this be yet another bipartisan bill to die in the Senate,” Kind added. “Let’s move this deal across the finish line so Wisconsin dairy farmers can finally get access to these new markets.”

Among the “no” votes was Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Black Earth).

“Though this new deal is a definitive improvement from NAFTA, I cannot be confident that this trade deal would correct its core flaws that led to the outsourcing of hundreds of thousands of American jobs, as well as serious environmental concerns,” Pocan said in a statement.

“This was not an easy vote,” Pocan added. “The original USMCA proposed by President Trump was an unacceptable handout to pharmaceutical companies as well as failing to protect workers or our planet. Democrats, unions, and progressive advocates stood up to the President, and made this new deal better—including improving labor standards, removing the big, sloppy kiss to Big Pharma and strengthening enforcement mechanisms.”

However, Pocan said, “I cannot be confident that this trade deal would heal the wounds inflicted by NAFTA, including rampant outsourcing of American jobs, the closing of factories and manufacturing facilities across the country, and decades of harm to working and middle-class communities. The deal also fails to take a once in a generation opportunity for North America to take bold, collective action to address the climate crisis that threatens the future of our entire planet.”

Pocan acknowledged that the deal “will provide some certainty to Wisconsin farmers and dairy producers, struggling in our current economy.” But said would not solve all the problems of dairy or agriculture as a whole.

“Our goal should be a trade deal that is a model for future deals—not merely a marginal improvement to existing law, with questions about its ultimate effectiveness.”

Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner

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