Vice President Mike Pence called for the United Auto Workers and General Motors—at loggerheads in a strike that started Monday—to unite in calling on Congress to approve a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
“I have a respectful message for all the United Auto Workers who are currently on strike,” Pence said Tuesday in remarks at The Heritage Foundation to promote the trade deal negotiated between the Trump administration and the nation’s North American neighbors to the north and south.
“As the president said, we hope and trust you’ll work out your differences with GM,” Pence said at the think tank’s Capitol Hill headquarters. “While you’re at it, if you really want to support our nation’s auto workers, the UAW and GM ought to tell Congress to pass the USMCA.”
Echoing President Donald Trump, the vice president also said the administration is “locked and loaded” to defend U.S. interests in the Middle East amid indications that Iran is behind an attack on a Saudi Arabian oil facility.
Speaking of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Pence said that unifying the three nations behind a common trade deal will “strengthen the president’s hand as we demand China end the trade abuse.”
After Trump scrapped the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, the administration worked out an updated deal with Canada and Mexico in the fall of 2018. However, Congress has yet to ratify the deal.
The USMCA largely updates NAFTA, and administration officials insist it is more favorable to American workers.
The Heritage Foundation supports the agreement’s new provisions on digital trade, intellectual property protection, and cross-border flows. However, the think tank has been critical of sections regarding labor, the environment, government procurement, rules of origin, and investor-state dispute settlements.
The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.
Pence’s remarks were geared at getting conservatives on board with the trade deal, since many conservatives have clashed with the Trump administration on the broader issue of free trade, particularly tariffs.
However, Pence also touched on several other topics, including the weekend attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, which the Arab kingdom and U.S. officials say was likely the work of Iran. Pence said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled Tuesday to Saudi Arabia to discuss the situation.
“In the wake of this weekend’s unprovoked attack on several oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, I promise you, we’re ready,” Pence said. “As the president said, we don’t want war with anybody, but the United States is prepared. We’re locked and loaded, and we’re ready to defend our interests and our allies in the region. Make no mistake about it.”
The vice president said U.S. intelligence officials are reviewing evidence from the incident.
“If the attacks were initiated from Iran, the truth is they would just be the latest in a series of increasingly dangerous escalations instigated by the Islamic Republic,” Pence said. “In the past few months alone, the Iranian regime has deployed their regional proxies to stage sabotage attacks against shipping in the Persian Gulf; they supplied and trained their Houthi allies in Yemen to launch nearly 100 drone strikes against Saudi targets. In July, they openly exceeded the limits to their stockpile of low enriched uranium, which they agreed to in 2015.”
The vice president continued:
Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world. It is the greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East. That’s why President Trump withdrew from the disastrous Iran nuclear agreement and initiated a maximum pressure campaign against the regime in Iran.
The truth is, our maximum pressure campaign against the Iranian regime is working. But know this: If Iran conducted this latest attack to pressure President Trump to back off, they will fail. America is ready to defend our interest.
The bulk of Pence’s remarks promoted the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which he called on Congress to ratify. Mexico’s legislature already has OK’d the agreement.
“It’s so advanced, so comprehensive, that it may serve as a template, a model trade agreement for future trade agreements for decades ahead, whether to the United Kingdom, Japan, the European Union, or China,” Pence said.
Referencing the International Trade Commission, Pence said the USMCA will add $70 billion in investments in the U.S. and create 180,000 American jobs in the first year it is in effect.
He also touted provisions on digital trade and energy, popular with conservatives.
“While NAFTA passed before even dial-up internet [existed], the brand new digital trade chapter in the USMCA takes the strongest language on digital trade of any international agreement in history,” Pence said.
“And the USMCA will be a big win for American energy as well,” he said. “Canada and Mexico are the top two American destinations for oil, already receiving nearly 30% of our exports. That number will only increase under the USMCA. It will keep Mexico’s energy resources open to development by American companies and it will guarantee no tariffs on American oil.”
The vice president also promoted labor and wage provisions.
“Under the USMCA, 75% of auto parts in duty-free cars must be made right here in North America, and a significant portion must be made by workers making a base wage of at least $16 per hour,” Pence said. “We believe that this will eliminate the historic incentive to move manufacturing jobs out of the United States.”