By: Briana Reilly of the Cap Times
Wisconsin congressional Republicans are pushing for quick passage of a new trade deal announced Tuesday that dairy and business interests say would help bring certainty to the state.
But Wisconsin Democrats said they're keen to review the measure before publicizing whether it would get their support.
House Democrats Tuesday morning announced they had come to a deal with President Donald Trump's administration over the renegotiated trade pact, with national media outlets reporting the party was able to secure changes to provisions on prescription drug pricing, the environment, labor and more.
Overall, Wisconsin congressional lawmakers lauded the news, with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind touting his efforts to "ensure a level playing field for Wisconsin workers and farmers," maintain U.S. jobs and more.
"The bipartisan efforts, changes to labor standards, increases in enforceability measures, and the solidifying of agricultural access should all serve as a baseline for how future trade agreements will be drafted," the La Crosse Democrat said in a statement, though he didn't guarantee he'd support it on the floor as he first wants to review the language.
U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan, both Democrats, hadn't yet weighed in on the deal Tuesday afternoon, with a Pocan spokesman saying the Madison rep hadn't seen the bill text and therefore declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Republicans lamented "months of needless delay," in the words of U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, and praised the Trump administration for finalizing negotiations on the effort.
“It’s about damn time," U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Green Bay Republican, wrote in a tweet. "USMCA is a win for Wisconsin and a win for America. It should have been brought up for a vote months ago."
State Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, have called on Congress to sign off on the update to the North American Free Trade Agreement for months, though Democrats have expressed reservations about the plan. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in visits to the state have also urged passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
The agreement to update NAFTA, which first took effect in 1994, has received approval from the three countries' leaders after negotiations were finalized last year, but it has stalled in Congress where it needs members' approval. Trump has slammed House Democrats for failing to act on the deal.
In Wisconsin, Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative — whose president, Brody Stapel, is a dairy farmer in the eastern part of the state -- praised Tuesday's announcement as "a significant step forward" and demanded House leaders pass it swiftly.
“USMCA is critical to the long-term success of the U.S. dairy community," Stapel said, adding: "This agreement would protect those longtime trading relationships and allow for growth in market share. That means economic certainty for businesses, families, employees and rural communities."
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce head Kurt Bauer said in a statement the group is "confident this renegotiated trade deal will benefit the state's economy."
“Wisconsin manufacturers, farmers and other employers need certainty when it comes to trade, and it is encouraging to see Congress finally moving the USMCA forward," he said. "We make and grow things in Wisconsin, but we need to be able to sell those product to our top trading partners in Canada and Mexico."
A spokeswoman for the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO didn't immediately return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon. The deal has won the endorsement of the national group, according to media reports, which helped secure the support of House Democrats.