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New Republic - January 17, 2020

"Sanders and liberal billionaire Tom Steyer each spoke out against the USMCA as candidates in Tuesday’s Democratic primary debate, where the former wasscoldedby a CNN moderator for linking climate and trade. While noting that the deal wasn’t perfect, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren—who ended up voting for it—all voiced their support. “Imagine in the year 2020 we have a major trade agreement that does not even mention the words climate change,” Sanders reiterated from the Senate floor yesterday. “Trade is a good thing, done well. But this trade agreement does not accomplish that end.”

If this week is the “Super Bowl” of trade policy—as Republican Senator Rob Portman called it Wednesday—the planet won’t be getting a ring. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the Nafta replacement that passed 89-10 through the Senate on Thursday, never mentions the climate crisis. It will do plenty to fuel it.

“Trump’s Nafta 2.0 is a climate failure any way you slice it,” the Sierra Club’s Ben Beachy told me. Beyond continuing to allow companies to seek lax climate and environmental rules outside the United States, the USMCA also lets them challenge new regulations proposed by countries signed onto it before they’re finalized, establishing hurdles to any future climate policy under a new administration.

The deal also goes out of the way to protect fossil fuel companies. All of the tar sands oil that flows to the U.S. from Canada via the Keystone XL pipeline will be exempt from tariffs under the USMCA. While the deal has been praised for largely eliminating Nafta’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions—which made it easy for corporations to challenge governments over laws they don’t like—there are some troubling exceptions to that policy under the USMCA: Oil and gas companies that have contracts with the Mexican government, for example, will still be allowed to challenge any potential threats to their profits posed by state policy. “It’s like saying we’re going to protect the henhouse by keeping all animals away except for foxes,” Beachy said, adding that “today’s vote moves us one step closer to locking in Trump’s polluting legacy for decades to come.” Climate and environmental groups broadly opposed the deal, including some—like the Natural Resources Defense Council—that enthusiastically backed Nafta 1.0 in the 1990s.

While 83 percent of Democratic voters believe trade agreements should address climate change, the party’s congressional delegation largely rallied behind a deal that will make it worse. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed hard to get the USCMA through the House, where it passed by a wide margin. With varying levels of enthusiasm, liberal stalwarts like Senator Sherrod Brown backed it, citing support from the AFL-CIO, along with most of the GOP and the American Petroleum Institute. “For the natural gas and oil industry, USMCA means more jobs, stronger energy security and continued economic growth,” the API’s president and CEO Mark Sommers boasted. On the other side, trade unions like the Machinists and United Food and Commercial Workers and the National Family Farm Coalition joined climate groups in opposing the agreement. It’s been reliably opposed, as well, by indigenous peoples up and down North America for its violations of land rights and the principle of Free Prior and Informed Consent for policies affecting them. Minutes before Thursday’s vote, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer joined Senators Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey, Kristin Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris in declaring that he was voting against the USMCA “because it does not address climate change, the greatest threat facing our planet.” ...
Read full report at New Republic