Congressman Ruiz Votes for USMCA to Support Workers, Grow Local Economy, and Protect Environment

December 20, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) voted in favor of the United States Mexico Canada (USMCA) Trade agreement passed by the House of Representatives yesterday to improve labor standards to grow American jobs, strengthen environmental protections, and increase investments to address water pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border. The USMCA includes more than $500 million for border water infrastructure programs to address pollution issues in waterways like the New River, which is a tributary to the Salton Sea.

The final USMCA trade agreement came together following months of negotiations between the House Democrats’ USMCA Working Group and the U.S. Trade Representative. The Working Group negotiated specifically for commitments from Mexico to increase their labor standards, to strengthen enforcement of labor and environmental commitments, and to remove provisions that could have locked in high drug prices for consumers.

“NAFTA needed an upgrade to improve our local economy, protect our workers, and enhance environmental standards,” said Dr. Raul Ruiz (CA-36). “I voted yes on the USMCA only after hard-fought victories that strengthen labor standards, increase wages, improve environmental protections, and prevent Big Pharma from locking in high drug prices. In particular, this bill provides over $500 million to improve pollution in waterways along the border like the New River, which dumps polluted water into the Salton Sea. This agreement is a step in the right direction to level the playing field for American jobs and increase American exports to help our local economies.”

“The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce applauds Congressman Ruiz for his support of the USMCA,” said Joshua Bonner, President and CEO of the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce. “USMCA will help to modernize the original NAFTA agreement and continue to strengthen trade with our two most important regional partners, Mexico and Canada. We appreciate the Congressman actively engaging our local business community throughout this process.”

Background:

The United States, Mexico, and Canada signed the USMCA in November 2018. Since then, a Democratic Working Group comprised of nine House Democrats negotiated with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on four key issues with the USMCA: drug prices, labor, environment, and enforcement provisions.

After months of tough negotiating, Democrats secured landmark changes to the USMCA for American workers, delivering a much stronger agreement than the first draft of the USMCA the Trump Administration had put forward.  This agreement now has the strongest enforcement mechanisms of any U.S. trade agreement, as well as critical victories for workers, environmental protections, and lower prescription drug costs:

  • Landmark Worker Protections: The original USMCA failed to improve on NAFTA to strengthen protections for American workers. Democratic Working Group changes create a new rapid-response enhanced labor protection to protect American workers; provide for facility-based enforcement and establish Labor Attachés to provide on-the-ground information about labor practices; create stronger rules to protect workers from violence and prosecute labor violations; and create tough new monitoring tools to ensure that Mexico is complying with its labor reforms.
  • Restored Environmental Protections: The Democratic Working Group ensured that the USMCA recognizes the environment’s connection to trade, and established Environment-Focused Attachés in Mexico City that will regularly monitor Mexico’s environment laws, regulations, and practices.
  • Border Water Improvement: The Democratic Working Group secured $300 million for the Border Water Infrastructure program to address wastewater pollution at the US-Mexico border. The New River, which flows into the Salton Sea, is one of the dirtiest rivers in the United States due to pollution that flows into the United States from Mexico.
  • Strongest Ever Enforcement: The original USMCA draft would have allowed a trade-cheating nation to stop an enforcement complaint from even being heard. Democratic Working Group changes closed enforcement loopholes and streamlined the dispute settlement system to ensure that our trading partners live up to their commitments by removing language allowing a responding party to block the formation of a dispute settlement panel. For the first time in a trade agreement, rules of evidence were created – rules that will help the United States successfully litigate labor, environmental, and other fact-intensive disputes.
  • Prescription Drugs:  The original USMCA would have locked in at least ten years of market exclusivity for biologics, some of the most expensive drugs on the market, which hurts American seniors and families who cannot afford their medication. The Democratic Working Group achievements have eliminated these unfair hand-outs to big corporations and secured provisions to lower drug costs and improve access to life-saving medicines.

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