Vice President Mike Pence in Marinette touted the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade deal as “a win for Wisconsin workers and a win for American jobs.”
In a wide-ranging address at Marinette Marine on Wednesday, Pence portrayed the Trump administration as a booster of the shipbuilder and noted the president aimed to expand the U.S. naval fleet to 350 ships.
“And you’re going to build a lot of it right here in Marinette,” he said.
He also praised President Trump’s work to “revive the American economy,” highlighting strong unemployment numbers and the administration’s focus on vocational training.
The 36-minute speech centered on trade. The former Indiana governor and congressman said the administration has consistently “fought for free and fair trade.”
He contrasted the USMCA with the North American Free Trade Agreement, a deal negotiated by former GOP President George H.W. Bush and ratified under former Dem President Bill Clinton. Pence said NAFTA meant that “tens of thousands of factories close(d) in this country and jobs open(ed) south of the border.”
Unlike NAFTA, Pence said, USMCA would be a win for Wisconsin’s manufacturing and dairy economies, claiming the state “would increase its exports of milk and cheese by 68,000 tons” if the trade deal become law.
Dennis Delie, the treasurer for the Wisconsin chapter of AFL-CIO and a United Steelworker, countered the agreement “falls woefully short of labor law reform, environmental protections and most importantly of all enforcement provisions.”
“The agreement can say whatever it wants, but if there aren’t effective enforcement provisions in that agreement, it’s nothing more than a piece of paper that isn’t going to create a whole lot of change, ” he said at a state Dem Party-organized news conference in Green Bay shortly before Pence touched down in Wisconsin.
Beyond those criticisms, Delie slammed the proposal as a handout to prescription drug makers, saying the agreement “has essentially been hijacked by the big pharmaceutical companies.”
“That didn’t need to be part of this agreement, but this again is a payback to big pharma,” he said. “So much for Donald Trump’s promise to lower drug prices.”
Still, Pence chided House Dems and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. He said they “spend all their time on endless investigations” and “a partisan impeachment” while refusing to bring the trade deal to the floor for ratification.
“The truth is if they bring it to the floor of the Congress, it’s going to pass and it’s going to be a win for Wisconsin and a win for American workers,” he said. “I came here today to say the time has come for Democrats in Congress to put politics aside, put America first and pass the USMCA.”
He praised U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, for “leading the charge for the USMCA in the United States Senate” and said other Republican members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation are “standing with the president every single day on the USMCA and everything else.”
But Pence warned that with a presidential election looming on the horizon, “the clock is ticking” to ratify the deal.
“If you think Congress has a hard time getting anything done when it’s not an election year, just wait for an election year to come,” he said.
He urged the assembled crowd and the “literally tens of Americans that might be watching this on CSPAN” to call U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind and express support for the trade deal.
“Tell them Wisconsin and America need the USMCA and we needed this year,” Pence said. “You call, it’ll make a difference.”