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Senators criticize new trade pact for neglecting climate change

Both Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall voted in favor of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on Thursday. But the two Democrats felt the trade pact – which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement – does not do enough to address climate change concerns.

“I am disappointed that this deal missed an opportunity to secure binding environmental and climate commitments from all three countries,” Heinrich said. “Despite this, I remain committed to fighting for concrete actions from the United States and our international partners to curb carbon pollution and address the climate crisis.”

Udall said that while the agreement includes improvements from Democrats that will enhance environmental enforcement, “we must meaningfully address the existential threat of climate change – which is not just an environmental issue, but an economic one as well.”

Heinrich said he wasn’t enthusiastic about the USMCA, which passed the Senate by an 89-10 vote.

“But it is far better than NAFTA,” he said in explaining his vote.

“I have not previously voted to support trade deals because they did not look out for the interests of working people,” Heinrich said. “A year ago, the initial USMCA deal put forward by the White House looked like more of the same, just a simple rebranding of NAFTA geared toward helping Wall Street and major corporations move jobs overseas and exploit workers.”

But he said the measure approved last week “clearly raises labor standards.”

“When corporations are required to pay their workers in Mexico better wages and treat them with the dignity they deserve, it helps American workers, too,” the senator said. “The enforceable labor provisions secured by Democrats that empower and protect workers set an important precedent that we need in every American trade agreement from here forward.”

Udall said New Mexico’s growing border economy was a bright spot for the state, “and I believe that, on balance, this agreement will benefit both U.S. workers and our thriving trade relationship with our neighbor Mexico.”

“Democrats have also included important funding, $843 million for U.S.-Mexico border environmental improvements and enhancing port of entry infrastructure,” he said.

“I voted for this agreement in the hopes that it will move us past the chaos of the last three years on trade with Mexico, and I regret that the president’s reckless and slapdash trade policies and rhetoric toward Mexico have caused uncertainty for working families and businesses at the border and across New Mexico, and damaged bilateral relations,” the senator added.

TORRES SMALL AMONG ‘MOST ACCESSIBLE’: The Town Hall Project released a report last week ranking Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., among the top five most accessible freshman members of the House of Representatives and top 20 among both chambers of Congress for town halls and public events hosted.

Last year, Torres Small hosted at least 24 town hall-style events in the 2nd Congressional District, according to the Town Hall Projects calculations.

“I came to Congress committed to working with anyone – Democrat, Republican, Independent – to deliver for New Mexico,” she said. “That work starts with listening to my constituents. That’s why I travel across New Mexico to hear directly from the people I represent and take action on the issues most important to them.”

The Town Hall Project is in its third year of conducting nationwide research into town halls hosted by members of Congress. It documented 2,670 town halls held in 2019. The town halls hosted by Torres Small include general town halls and constituent coffee town halls also known as Congress on Your Corners.

She has two town halls scheduled this week: 6 p.m. Monday at Western New Mexico University in Silver City and 6 p.m. Tuesday at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum in Las Cruces.