January 21, 2021

Washington Wire: U.S. ITC Releases Analysis on U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement


U.S. ITC Releases Analysis on U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement  

On April 18, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) released its report analyzing the new North American free trade pact signed by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to replace NAFTA. The ITC report stated the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) would increase U.S. gross domestic product by $68.2 billion, or 0.35 percent, when compared to the original agreement. Furthermore, ITC found the USMCA would increase U.S. employment by 45,000 in auto parts though lose roughly 16,000 in automotive assembly and auto manufacturing. Releasing the ITC report was a necessary step before Congress can vote to ratify the new NAFTA.
Another important step happened at the beginning of this week when Mexico’s Senate passed a labor reform bill. Mexico’s lower house already pass the labor bill earlier in April. Now that the bill has passed both chambers, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has stated he will sign the bill, making it law. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stated that Congress could not begin work on ratifying the USMCA until Mexico enacts labor reform.
With these hurdles out of the way, the Trump administration now must send the text of the USMCA to Congress 30 days before President Trump can formally submit a bill implementing the agreement to Congress. Once formally submitted, the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee have up to 45 days to review the USMCA bill before introducing it to the full bodies of Congress. Despite the recent progress, most observers still believe the new NAFTA has a long way to go before receiving a vote in the U.S. Congress and many give it a slim chance of passing if a vote in Congress occurs much beyond Labor Day.



New Round of China Trade Negotiations Start
A U.S. delegation led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin travelled to China this week to continue trade negotiations between the two nations. While the U.S. and China are closer to reaching an agreement, a deal may not be reached until June. Sources indicate the two sides have made progress on an enforcement mechanism, making sure the parties comply with the agreement. A Chinese delegation will travel to Washington, D.C., for an additional round of negotiations beginning on May 8. People close to the Trump administration are indicating that the President may maintain 25% tariffs on roughly 1,000 imported Chinese products as additional leverage even if both parties sign an agreement.



Senate Hearing Examines Higher Ed Accountability
On April 16, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee conducted a hearing concentrating on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Congress has not fully reauthorized HEA since 2008, making only minor changes when it extended the law in 2013. During the hearing, the HELP Committee spotlighted accountability issues, such as targeting what information schools need to report and making accrediting agencies stronger. In addition, the HELP Committee highlighted how employers need skilled workers, which may not require a student to earn a four year degree. Therefore, credentials that only require one or two years of study can be just as valuable to certain industries. This is an important victory for One Voice who has long called for Washington to focus on manufacturing careers and not just develop policies to drive more students into four year universities and a lifetime of student debt.
One Voice is working with leading policymakers in Washington to expand the HEA to treat credentials equally with two and four year degrees and allow Pell Grants for short-term skills training. One Voice has also endorsed several bipartisan bills focusing on career pathways, supporting community colleges partnering with local industry, and allowing employers to claim up to $5,250 in tax credits for helping employees repay student loans.



White House Proposes to Increase Transparency of Data used to Support Regulations
On April 24, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum to all federal agencies on how they should implement the Information Quality Act. Moving forward, OMB wants agencies to provide more in-depth definitions of which types of information qualify as “influential.” Furthermore, OMB’s memorandum seeks to end the use of “secret science,” ensuring data underlying any new regulations are publicly available, except for personally identifiable information, in a manner sufficient for independent validation. Finally, agencies must respond to public requests for correcting underlying data within 120 days. One Voice supports a regulatory process designed to adhere to sound principles of science, risk assessment and robust cost-benefit analysis.