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GOP-controlled Senate approves Trump’s US-Mexico-Canada agreement to replace NAFTA

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The US Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to approve a new North American trade pact, handing President Donald Trump a second back-to-back trade win just as his impeachment trial was beginning in Washington.

After a brief debate, lawmakers voted 89-10 in favor of a bill allowing the US-Mexico-Canada agreement to take effect, overhauling trade relations among the three countries.

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The USMCA bill faced some opposition — including from Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who said it failed to address the threat of climate change — and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who complained that it erected barriers to free trade.

Given that the USMCA was negotiated at his instigation, Trump’s signature is not in doubt, however.

In split-screen drama and with the vote scarcely concluded, House lawmakers who will serve as prosecutors in Trump’s trial gathered in the well of the Senate bearing articles of impeachment which were later read aloud to the chamber — setting the historic proceedings in motion.

The second straight day of good news on the trade front offered a welcome boost for the embattled president, who faces a tough re-election fight 10 months from now.

Adoption of the continent-wide agreement comes less than a day after Washington and Beijing reached a separate partial deal, pausing a damaging trade war between the world’s top two economies and letting farmers and businesses breathe a sigh of relief.

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Wall Street also welcomed the news as stocks closed at fresh all-time highs for the fifth time in January.

In an internet video, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador hailed the USMCA’s Senate passage, calling the news “very meaningful” as it signaled “more confidence in Mexico” and would lead to growth and investment.

The USMCA is billed as an update to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump had long lambasted as a job killer and threatened to scrap outright.

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House lawmakers voted last month to adopt the USMCA after winning changes to the text, including stronger guarantees that Mexican labor reforms can be enforced, as well as changes governing medications and environmental standards.

“Today, the Senate passed a USMCA that has been transformed by Democrats’ leadership,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

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Mexican lawmakers adopted those changes last month while Canada has yet to vote on the text, the final step for it to enter into force.

Trump had long blamed NAFTA for the offshoring of American jobs, and negotiations for what would become the USCMA began in August of 2017.

Mexican and Canadian officials likewise conceded that the 26-year-old NAFTA, ratified in an era before the rise of digital commerce, was in need of an update.

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Trump strategy vindicated?

The new treaty was signed by the three countries in November 2018.

The earlier NAFTA created a vast free-trade zone across North America, leading to radical shifts in the makeup of industries in the three countries and vastly increasing cross-border exchanges in goods, services and people.

While the agreement produced winners and losers in some areas, economists say overall it increased growth and raised the standard of living in North America.

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The new deal changes content rules on auto manufacturing and requires higher salaries for some Mexican auto workers.

It also makes changes to e-commerce, intellectual property protections and dispute settlement for investors, as well as tougher labor provisions that require reforms to Mexico’s labor laws

An analysis by an independent US trade commission in April showed the USMCA was likely to have a “moderate” positive effect on the US economy — largely by reducing uncertainty about the rules governing trade.

On the other hand, it could also result in lower US auto production and sales, according to the US International Trade Commission.

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But US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said the agreement should result in billions more in investments in the auto sector and purchases of parts, citing commitments made by manufacturers, as well as hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Businesses and the agricultural lobby in recent months had urgently pressed lawmakers to advance the new treaty and help end trade uncertainty.

US trade with Canada and Mexico supports 12 million American jobs and 49 of 50 US states list Mexico or Canada among their three top export destinations, according to the US Chamber of Commerce.

Canada and Mexico together represent 40 percent of the growth in US goods exports. Trade with those two countries reached $1.4 trillion in 2018.

Trump aides believed the bill’s success vindicated the president’s maximum pressure strategy, including the use of punitive tariffs to extract concessions from trade partners.

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2020 Election

Here are 3 winners and 3 losers from the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate

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Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the other leading Democratic presidential primary candidates Wednesday night in the fieriest evening of the race so far.

His presence on the stage drew fire from the other candidates, but it also seemed to change the overall tone of the debate, with more attacks, counter-attacks, and passion than was generally seen earlier in the campaign.

Here’s a (necessarily subjective!) list of the winners and losers from the fray:

Winners

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — Warren hit her stride right as the debate started by attacking Bloomberg for his record on the mistreatment of women, racist policies, and his tax returns. She repeatedly came back to skewer the former mayor, making herself the biggest and most notable presence in the debate. But importantly, she also continuously brought the discussion back to the issues she cares about — like expanding health care, environmental justice,  and consumer protection — while getting in digs at the other candidates on the stage.

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After bombing in #DemDebate internet changes Mike Bloomberg’s ‘death’ date on Wikipedia

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Someone online changed former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's information on Wikipedia during the Wednesday debate to say that he died on Feb. 19.

After being ripped to shreds during the MSNBC Democratic debate, it became clear that Bloomberg wasn't quite as prepared as the other Democratic candidates.

The Wikipedia article was also changed to indicate that his cause of death was Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

https://twitter.com/joshrobin/status/1230333066280886273

Bloomberg had several unfortunate moments, namely his refusal to release female accusers from nondisclosure agreements, he came out in favor of fracking, he blamed India for China's involvement in climate change, and many many more things.

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Internet slams ‘cringe-worthy elitist’ Mike Bloomberg for saying he’s too rich to use TurboTax

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At the Democratic presidential debate in Nevada, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stumbled after being asked when he will release his tax returns, when he suggested that he "can't go to TurboTax" because he's too wealthy.

Moderator: "You've said you'll release your tax returns, but why do Democrats have to wait?"

Bloomberg: "We do business around the world. The document will be thousands of pages. I can't go to TurboTax."

😂😂😂#DemDebate

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