When dealing with international trade — as with many things in business — sometimes what’s needed most is simply a sure thing. We’ve been critical of President Donald Trump’s approach to trade over the past few years in large part because he has injected a tremendous amount of uncertainty in markets, supply chains and other aspects that keep global commerce humming.
But when it comes to one of the most important trading deals for Texas (as well as the United States), the president has hammered out a new agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement so it is past time for Congress to get on board and nail into place our new trade deal with Canada and Mexico.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now signaling that passing the trade deal through the House is imminent. Apparently, several members of her caucus have spoken in favor of passing such a bill. It probably helps that some of these members are in districts carried by the president in 2016, so getting his trade deal done will help insulate them from attacks of obstructionism come reelection next year.
The sticking point seems to stem from the other half of the Democratic caucus that wants to slow walk, if not kill off, this bill. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois, stood up in a recent caucus meeting to argue that this would be a “legacy vote” with long-standing repercussions. Therefore, no one should rush to get something done, she suggested.
We’d argue that, yes, pushing through this trade deal could be a legacy vote. If the House pushes it forward and thereby clears the way for the White House to have something to crow about next year, House Democrats will also have a proud legacy, even if such a vote splits their caucus. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, there are signs of a slowing economy both at home and, more clearly, abroad. Securing this trade deal will be a meaningful step toward ensuring the United States economy a good path forward.
It’s worth noting that both the president and Democrats seeking control of the levers of power in Washington need political wins to take to the people next year. And this deal could be such a win. And — from a political standpoint — we doubt passing it will be much of a liability for any lawmaker. After all, the president’s new agreement is called USMCA (the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement). That’s a name that’s so bland and the pact itself is so innocuous that it’s unlikely to become a potent line of attack.
The bigger political risk here is that the economy stumbles and neither party has a win to point to on something they did to strengthen our economy.