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US House passes new North American trade pact to replace NAFTA

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) walk from the House floor where members debate the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to the speaker's office in the Capitol on Dec. 19, 2019. (AFP photo)

The US House of Representatives has passed a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada more than a year after President Donald Trump secured the deal with the two neighbors.

The new deal known as United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In a 385-41 bipartisan vote on Thursday, the House approved the new trade pact, sending it to the Senate for consideration early in 2020.

The deal would help Trump fulfill one of his campaign promises which was to overhaul the much-maligned NAFTA, signed a quarter of a century ago.

“This is the first-ever trade coalition of workers, farmers, Republicans, Democrats, business and agriculture groups, organized labor and much more,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement after the vote.

“We really have offered a new construct for trade,” Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, declared in an interview with The New York Times.

“To get to negotiate a hemispheric trade agreement — some would say ‘I think it’s the biggest trade agreement in American history’ — so yeah, it’s pretty good.”

Alongside changes to the dairy market, officials have said the USMCA included more job security for workers, tough new environmental rules, and updated trade relations to cover the digital economy and provide “groundbreaking” intellectual property protections.

In addition, the USMCA added provisions to prevent “manipulation” of the trade rules, including covering currency values and controls over outside countries trying to take advantage of the duty-free market, according to reports.

Under the USMCA, the trade pact will expire after 16 years; however, it will be reviewed every six years.

The new development comes less than 24 hours after Republican Trump was impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said ahead of the vote on Thursday, “This vote today is a reminder that, even while the House was working to hold the President accountable for his abuses of office, we were still working hard to deliver on our promises to the American people to focus on economic opportunity.”

In a historic vote on Wednesday, the lower chamber of US Congress voted to impeach the president over pressuring Ukraine for personal political gain.

The majority of the lawmakers supported both articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The abuse of power article was passed on a 230-197 vote and the obstruction article was passed by 229-198.

Trump is the third president in US history to be impeached but the effort is expected to come to a halt in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The decision to impeach Trump was made amid partisan tensions across a deeply divided country.

The GOP leaders have clearly stated that they would not support impeaching a president they got elected in 2016.

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