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Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn back new North American trade deal to replace NAFTA

WASHINGTON

Trucks wait in a long queue for border customs control to cross into U.S. at the World Trade Bridge in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, joined with most of their colleagues from both sides of the aisle to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a new North American trade deal.

The new USCMA agreement, negotiated by President Donald Trump, will replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. Among other changes, the new trade deal will strengthen enforcement of labor and environmental laws and increase the threshold for how much of a car must be manufactured in a country to avoid tariffs.

The deal is of particular importance to Texas, the state with the most ports and the longest border with another country.

Trade is uniquely fundamental to Texas' economy, compared to most other regions in the country. The state is the largest exporter - and second largest importer - of international goods, according to Michigan State University. Mexico and Canada are Texas' largest trading partners, with the state exporting $110 billion and $28 billion worth of goods, respectively, to the two countries, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.

The Senate overwhelmingly backed the bill, in a 90-10 vote on Thursday. The USMCA bill was passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House last month.

The new trade deal awaits both Trump's signature which is expected to come next week, and eventual passage in Canada. Mexico's government ratified the deal last summer.

Cruz and Cornyn's support for the bill marks a rare occurrence for the Texas delegation: unanimous support on a major piece of legislation. Texas House Democrats and Republicans uniformly backed the deal in the December vote.

But passage was not always assured. While Trump struck a deal with Mexico and Canada over a year ago, Democrats objected to pharmaceutical provisions and advocated for worker safety and environmental measures.

This legislation will be the last major piece of lawmaking the Senate will address before it spends the next several weeks focused on the impeachment trial.