Trucks go through a secondary inspection after crossing the United States border via the Veterans International Bridge on Jan. 10, 2019. Eddie Gaspar for The Texas Tribune
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, joined with most of their colleagues from both sides of the aisle to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a new North American trade deal.
The new USCMA agreement, negotiated by President Donald Trump, will replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. Among other changes, the new trade deal will strengthen enforcement of labor and environmental laws and increase the threshold for how much of a car must be manufactured in a country to avoid tariffs.
“This deal is a win for Texas farmers, ranchers, businesses, and manufacturers, and will ensure greater economic opportunity for every American,” Cruz said in a statement after the vote.
The deal is of particular importance to Texas, the state with the most ports and the longest border with another country.
Trade is uniquely fundamental to Texas’ economy, compared to most other regions in the country. The state is the largest exporter – and second largest importer – of international goods, according to Michigan State University. Mexico and Canada are Texas’ largest trading partners, with the state exporting $110 billion and $28 billion worth of goods, respectively, to the two countries, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.
The Senate overwhelmingly backed the bill, in a 90-10 vote on Thursday. The USMCA bill was passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House last month.
Cruz and Cornyn’s support for the bill marks a rare occurrence for the Texas delegation: unanimous support on a major piece of legislation. Texas House Democrats and Republicans uniformly backed the deal in the December vote.
Even so, Texans complained that it wasn’t perfect.
While applauding the deal, Cruz also expressed frustration that it did not address what he perceived as “Big Tech’s pattern of political bias and censorship.”
Similarly, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat who represents part of the Rio Grande Valley, published an op-ed on Thursday criticizing the deal for not including provisions that will force Mexico to better secure tourism and trade routes amid increased violence. Gonzalez wrote that his “requests to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and the Mexican government to consider including security in the agreement were snubbed, asserting that the agreement was about trade not security.”
The new trade deal awaits both Trump’s signature which is expected to come next week, and eventual passage in Canada. Mexico’s government ratified the deal last summer.
This legislation is the last major piece of lawmaking the Senate will address before it spends the next several weeks focused on the impeachment trial.