By RICARDO CASTILLO
The Mexican Senate approved by an overwhelming majority on Wednesday, June 19, the new United States-Mexico- Canada Agreement (USMCA) that will replace the 25-year-old and outdated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
In an extraordinary session, the 128-member Senate discussed the nature of the document, which was negotiated and signed by former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto last Nov. 30, his last day in office in Buenos Aires, Argentina, along with U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The votes count was 114 in favor, four against and one abstention, with nine absentee senators.
The 34-chapter UMSCA has a duration of 16 years, during which Mexico will secure the imposition of tariffs on exports from its northern counterparts to which Mexico commits itself to be reciprocal.
The agreement upgrades the old 22-chapter NAFTA with the incorporation of ecommerce as a main means of trade. When NAFTA went into effect on Jan. 1, 1994, the internet did not exist as we know it today.
Other subjects absent in NAFTA were energy, the environment, labor, small business development and competitiveness. But like NAFTA, the UMSCA does not include a chapter on migration.
UMSCA includes also six bilateral parallel agreements between Mexico and the United States related to security mechanisms in vehicles, protection to biological products and the usage of a common trade language in production and marketing.
There were immediate positive reactions from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Trump and Trudeau to the passage of the Mexican side of the negotiation.
@realDonaldTrump said: “Congratulations to President Lopez Obrador — Mexico voted to ratify the USMCA today by a huge margin. Time for Congress to do the same here!”
Trudeau, for his part, said: “Just landed in Washington D.C. — lots of work to do with @POTUS on trade, ratifying the new NAFTA, and creating more middle class jobs and opportunities for people and businesses on both sides of the border.”
López Obrador said: “I transmit to the people of Mexico good news: The Senate of the Republic ratified by a noteworthy majority the Free Trade Agreement among our nation, the United States and Canada.”
Senator Hector Vasconcelos, president of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Senate, said that, even if Trump threatened recently to impose tariffs on Mexican exports, “our country opts for free trade for the benefit of the region. We too are celebrating that in our consensus of the recent crisis created by unilateral measures by the U.S. government, which could have had grave consequences over our economy,” have been prevented.
A Foreign Relations Secretariat spokesman predicted that there is between a 70 to 75 percent chances that the U.S. Congress will approve UMSCA this summer.
“I see a resolution at hand,” he said, “anywhere between now and July.”