Ведуча дебатів на «Суспільному» заявила про ймовірне мінування будівлі

Ведуча дебатів на «Суспільному» перед другим туром президентських виборів Мирослава Барчук повідомила, що отримала інформацію про ймовірне замінування будівлі, де відбувається ефір.

Вона запропонувала присутнім за бажанням покинути будівлю, але люди, в тому числі – кандидат у президенти Петро Порошенко, залишились всередині.

У поліції Києва ситуацію поки що не коментували.

Ефір триває. Було обрано формат запитань і відповідей: кандидату показують відеозвернення, записані в рамках флешмобу #єПитання, потім він має три хвилини на відповідь.

Команда фактчекерів Радіо Свобода зараз наживо перевіряє заяви в ефірі. Їх можна прочитати в лайвблозі.

Стежте наживо тут: Порошенко і Зеленський. Трансляція дебатів + фактчек

В ефірі «Суспільного» зараз перебуває тільки чинний президент Петро Порошенко. Раніше представники його опонента Володимира Зеленського заявили, що він не братиме участі у дебатах на «Суспільному», і зустрінеться з Порошенком тільки на стадіоні.

Це відбулося сьогодні о 19:00.

Закон «Про вибори президента України» встановлює час, тривалість і порядок проведення теледебатів перед другим туром виборів. Теледебати за рахунок коштів державного бюджету України проводяться в останню п’ятницю перед днем повторного голосування між 19-ю та 22-ю годинами в прямому ефірі, тривалістю не менш як 60 хвилин.

У Центральній виборчій комісії раніше звертали увагу на те, що саме такі дебати в студії НСТУ передбачені законом і відбуваються за рахунок коштів державного бюджету України, тоді як дебати на стадіоні можуть бути формою передвиборчої агітації, і кандидати мають оплатити їх зі своїх фондів.

Українські позиції на Донбасі обстріляли 7 разів за добу, втрат немає – штаб

Штаб української воєнної операції на Донбасі повідомляє про випадків порушень режиму припинення вогню з боку сепаратистів станом на 18:00 19 квітня. За даними штабу, йдеться про обстріли українських позицій поблизу Павлополя, Водяного, Пищевика, Верхньоторецького, Опитного та Новоселівка-2 на Донеччині, а також Золотого-4 на Луганщині.

Втрат серед українських військових немає, мовиться у повідомленні.

Угруповання «ДНР» раніше заявило про обстріл Куйбишівського району на півночі Донецька, внаслідок якого, за їхньою інформацією, розпочалась пожежа, але ніхто не постраждав.

У свою чергу, в угрупованні «ЛНР» заявляють про 4 обстріли їхніх позицій протягом поточної доби.

На Донбасі від 8 березня діє новий режим тиші, про який домовилися на засіданні Тристоронньої контактної групи в Мінську. Цього разу, як і раніше, перемир’я не дотримується і порушувалося відразу в перші години після проголошення.

Збройний конфлікт на Донбасі триває від 2014 року після російської окупації Криму. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у збройній підтримці бойовиків. Кремль відкидає ці звинувачення і заявляє, що на Донбасі можуть перебувати хіба що російські «добровольці».

За даними ООН, станом на кінець грудня 2018 року, за час конфлікту загинули близько 13 тисяч людей, майже 30 тисяч – поранені.

Лукашенко сказав, коли відбудуться вибори президента і парламенту Білорусі

Президент Білорусі Олександр Лукашенко оголосив, що наступні президентські вибори відбудуться 2020 року, однак парламентські вибори мають відбутися протягом 2019-го. Про це він сказав у щорічному зверненні до народу та парламенту 19 квітня.

Його заява пролунала на тлі закликів окремих політиків розмежувати дати президентських і парламентських виборів, щоб передвиборчі кампанії не накладалися одна на одну.

Читайте також: Дмитро Гордон: «Лукашенко і Зеленський зачарують один одного»

За словами голови Центральної виборчої комісії Лідії Ярмошиної, чинне законодавство передбачає, що наступні президентські вибори мають відбутися не пізніше 30 серпня 2020 року, а наступні загальні вибори – не пізніше 6 вересня 2020 року.

«У білоруському законодавстві є лише термін «не пізніше, ніж». Тобто неможливо провести вибори пізніше цих дат. Але можна зробити це раніше», ؘ– пояснила Ярмошина в коментарі Радіо Свобода у січні 2019 року.

Вона додала, що законодавство не регулює, наскільки раніше за визначені законом дати можуть відбутися вибори.

МЗС Росії поширює неправду про звіт Мюллера щодо російського втручання у вибори в США

Міністерство закордонних справ Росії неправдиво стверджує, що американський спецпрокурор Роберт Мюллер «визнав», що його розслідування не виявило доказів російського втручання у президентські вибори в США 2016 року.

«Доповідь підтверджує відсутність будь-якої аргументації про те, що Росія нібито втручалася в американські вибори. Жодного доказу там немає. Фактично автори доповіді розписалися на тому, що у них таких доказів немає», – заявив 19 квітня представник МЗС Росії Георгій Борисенко.

Читайте також: Конгрес закликають притягти Трампа до відповідальності після оприлюднення доповіді Мюллера

Міністр юстиції США Вільям Барр 18 квітня заявив, що розслідування, проведене спеціальним прокурором Робертом Мюллером, виявило докази того, що Росія намагалася втрутитися в президентські вибори у США 2016 року.

Тим не менш, Барр зазначив, що розслідування не виявило доказів того, що президент США Дональд Трамп або ж члени його кампанії вступали з Росією у змову з метою реалізації втручання у вибори.

Речник президента Росії Дмитро Пєсков відкинув наведені в доповіді докази, наголосивши, що в Кремлі не приймають звинувачень у втручанні.

Таліби і представники Афганістану не змогли провести заплановані переговори

Мирні переговори між афганською делегацією та представниками екстремістського угруповання «Талібан» відклали. Близько 250 політиків та представників громадськості мали зустрітися 19 квітня в столиці Катару Досі для так званого внутрішньоафганського діалогу.

Ці переговори мали стати важливим першим кроком до припинення війни в Афганістані та остаточного виведення військового контингенту Сполучених Штатів з цієї країни.

Втім, 18 квітня зустрічі раптово скасували через незгоду щодо розміру та складу афганської делегації, до якої як приватні особи входять члени уряду Афганістану.

Читайте також: Судді МКС відхилили запит про розслідування імовірних воєнних злочинів в Афганістані

Представники «Талібану» розкритикували довгий перелік афганських делегатів і заявили, що не будуть зустрічатися з такою кількістю людей.

Таліби також наполягають на тому, що не вестимуть перемов із членами уряду.

Склад делегації Кабулу також наразився на критику кількох впливових афганських опозиціонерів, в тому числі колишнього військового командира з міста Мазар-е-Шаріф Атти Мухаммада Нура. Він назвав склад делегатів недостатньо всеохопним.

Представник США з питань мирного врегулювання в Афганістані Залмай Халілзад висловив розчарування відтермінуванням переговорів.

«Ми контактуємо з усіма учасниками і підбадьорені тим, що всі лишаються відданими ідеї діалогу», – додав він.

18 квітня уряд Афганістану звинуватив у зриві переговорів катарську владу. Однак голова Центру досліджень конфліктів і гуманітарних питань, який організовує переговори, Султан Баракят не погоджується з твердженням офіційного Кабулу.

Читайте також: США зазнали втрат у Афганістані через напад талібів

«Неприємне відтермінування потрібне, щоб вибудувати подальший консенсус щодо того, хто має взяти участь у конференції», – заявив він.

«Талібан» продовжує влаштовувати щоденні атаки на афганські сили безпеки, попри те, що веде переговори з США щодо припинення майже 18-річної війни в Афганістані. Уряд в Кабулі на переговорах не був присутній, бо таліби наполягали, що не хочуть взаємодіяти з «західною маріонеткою».

Водночас аналітики сприймають нові переговори як потенційний прорив у зусиллях, спрямованих на припинення майже 18-річної війни в Афганістані.

Three Climbers Presumed Dead in Banff Avalanche

Three renowned mountain climbers are presumed dead after an avalanche in Alberta’s Banff National Park, Canadian officials said Thursday.

Outdoor apparel company The North Face said that American Jess Roskelley and Austrians David Lama and Hansjorg Auer disappeared while attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak on the Icefields Parkway. They were reported overdue Wednesday.

“They are missing, and local search and rescue has assumed the worst,” North Face said in a statement.

Roskelley climbed Mount Everest in 2003 at age 20. At the time he was the youngest American to climb the world’s highest peak.

The North Face says it is doing what it can to support the climbers’ families and friends.

Parks Canada said the three men were attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak on the Icefields Parkway Wednesday.

Officials say recovery efforts are on hold because of a continued risk of avalanches.

Parks Canada says safety specialists immediately responded by air and observed signs of multiple avalanches and debris containing climbing equipment.

“Parks Canada extends its sincerest condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of the mountaineers,” Parks Canada said in a statement.

Roskelley’s father, John Roskelley, was himself a world-renowned climber who had many notable ascents in Nepal and Pakistan, mostly in the 1970s. John Roskelley joined his son on the successful Everest expedition in 2003.

Jess Roskelley grew up in Spokane, Washington, where his father was a county commissioner. John Roskelley told The Spokesman-Review the route his son and the other climbers were attempting was first done in 2000.

“It’s just one of those routes where you have to have the right conditions or it turns into a nightmare. This is one of those trips where it turned into a nightmare,” John Roskelley said.

John Roskelley had climbed the 10,810-foot Howse Peak, via a different route, in the 1970s and knows the area well. On Thursday he was preparing to go to Canada to gather Jess Roskelley’s belongings and see if he could get into the area.

“It’s in an area above a basin,” he said. “There must have been a lot of snow that came down and got them off the face.”

The elder Roskelley said: “When you’re climbing mountains, danger is not too far away. … It’s terrible for my wife and I. But it’s even worse for his wife.”

Police Official: Short-Circuit Likely Caused Notre Dame Fire

Paris police investigators think an electrical short-circuit most likely caused the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, a police official said Thursday, as France paid a daylong tribute to the firefighters who saved the world-renowned landmark.

A judicial police official told The Associated Press that investigators made an initial assessment of the cathedral Wednesday but don’t have a green light to search Notre Dame’s charred interior because of ongoing safety hazards.

The cathedral’s fragile walls were being shored up with wooden planks, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak by name about an ongoing investigation. 

Investigators believe the fire was accidental, and are questioning both cathedral staff and workers who were carrying out renovations. Some 40 people had been questioned by Thursday, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.

The police official would not comment on an unsourced report in Le Parisian newspaper that investigators are looking at whether the fire could have been linked to a computer glitch or the temporary elevators used in the renovation work, among other things. The prosecutor’s office said only that “all leads must be explored.”

Temporary structure proposed

Since the cathedral will be closed to the public for years, the rector of the Catholic parish that worships there has proposed building a temporary structure on the plaza in front of the Gothic-era landmark, and City Hall gave its approval Thursday “subject to technical restraints.” 

“The rector has no cathedral for the moment. … But I’m going to try to invent something,” Bishop Patrick Chauvet said. 

A crypt containing vestiges dating from antiquity is located under the vast esplanade. 

President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants Notre Dame to be restored in five years, in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics, which Paris is hosting. Restoration specialists have questioned the ambitious timeline, with some saying it could take three times that long to rebuild the 850-year-old architectural treasure. 

Honoring the firefighters

Earlier Thursday, Macron held a ceremony at the Elysee Palace to thank the hundreds of firefighters who battled the fast-moving fire at Notre Dame for nine hours starting Monday evening, preventing the structure’s destruction and rescuing many of the important relics held inside.

“We’ve seen before our eyes the right things perfectly organized in a few moments, with responsibility, courage, solidarity and a meticulous organization,” Macron said. “The worst has been avoided.” 

The cathedral’s lead roof and its soaring spire were destroyed, but Notre Dame’s iconic bell towers, rose windows, organ and precious artworks were saved. 

Macron said the firefighters will receive an Honor Medal for their courage and devotion. 

Paris City Hall also held a ceremony in the firefighters’ honor Thursday afternoon, with a Bach violin concert, two giant banners strung from the monumental city headquarters and readings from Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” 

Remarkably, no one was killed in the blaze that broke out as the cathedral was in the initial stages of a lengthy restoration. 

Securing area, cathedral

A large swath of the island in the Seine River where Notre Dame is located was officially closed Thursday by police, who cited “important risks” of collapse and falling objects. The area had been unofficially blocked off since the fire. 

Meanwhile, workers using a crane removed some statues to lessen the weight on the cathedral’s fragile gables, or support walls, to keep them from collapsing since they were no longer supported by the roof and its network of centuries-old timbers that were consumed by the inferno. 

They also secured the support structure above one of Notre Dame’s rose windows with wooden planks. 

Saving history

Among the firefighters honored Thursday was Paris fire brigade chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier, who told the Le Parisian daily he was able to save the cathedral’s consecrated hosts. The paper said he climbed on altars to remove large paintings, but that he was especially proud “to have removed Jesus” from the Cathedral — a reference to the Catholic belief that consecrated hosts are the body of Christ. 

An earlier report credited Fournier with helping salvage the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion, but Fournier told France Info Thursday he arrived after rescuers had already broken the relic’s protective covering and an official who had the secret code needed to unlock it finished the job. He praised the action that preserved “this extraordinary relic, this patrimony of humanity.”

Among others honored was Myriam Chudzinski, one of the first firefighters to reach the roof as the blaze raged. Loaded with gear, they climbed hundreds of steps up the cathedral’s narrow spiral staircase to the top of one of the two towers.

“We knew that the roof was burning, but we didn’t really know the intensity,” she told reporters. “It was from upstairs that you understood that it was really dramatic. It was very hot and we had to retreat, retreat. It was spreading quickly.” 

Benedicte Contamin, who came to view the damaged cathedral from afar Thursday, said she’s sad but grateful it’s still there. 

“It’s a chance for France to bounce back, a chance to realize what unites us, because we have been too much divided over the past years,” she said.

Food Stamps, Online Grocery Shopping Are About to Mix 

Amazon and Walmart on Thursday kicked off a two-year government pilot program allowing low-income shoppers on government food assistance in New York to shop and pay for their groceries online for the first time. 

 

ShopRite will join the two retailers on the program early next week, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. 

 

The USDA has long required customers using electronic benefits transfer, or EBT, to pay for their purchases at the actual time and place of sale. So the move marks the first time SNAP customers can pay for their groceries online.

ShopRite and Amazon are providing the service to the New York City area, and Walmart is providing the service online in upstate New York locations. The agency said the pilot will eventually expand to other areas of New York as well as Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.

Purchase food, but not delivery

The pilot program will test both online ordering and payment. SNAP participants will be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible food items but will not be able to use SNAP to pay for service or delivery charges, the agency said. 

 

People who receive SNAP benefits should have the opportunity to shop for food the same way more and more Americans shop for food — by ordering and paying for groceries online,'' said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.As technology advances, it is important for SNAP to advance, too, so we can ensure the same shopping options are available for both non-SNAP and SNAP recipients.” 

 

Perdue said he will be monitoring how the pilot program increases food access and customer service, specifically for those who have trouble visiting physical stores.  

Roughly 38 million individuals receive food stamps in the U.S., according to the USDA. Nearly $52 billion, or 82% of all food stamp dollars, were spent at big box stores and grocery chains in 2017, according to the most recent USDA data. 

 

The 2014 Farm Bill authorized the USDA to conduct and evaluate a pilot program for online purchasing prior to national implementation. The USDA says the move was intended to ensure online transactions are processed safely and securely. 

 

Seattle-based Amazon said those who qualify don’t need to be Prime members to buy groceries with their benefits. They’ll get free access to its AmazonFresh service, which delivers meat, dairy and fresh produce to shoppers’ doorsteps. And they’ll also be able to use Prime Pantry, which delivers packaged goods like cereal and canned food.

Qualifying amounts

However, they’ll need to spend over a certain amount to qualify for free shipping: $50 at AmazonFresh and $25 at Amazon.com. The online shopping giant launched a website, amazon.com/snap, where people can check if they qualify. Amazon said it’s working with the USDA to expand service to other parts of New York state. 

 

Amazon.com Inc. was on the initial list for the government pilot program, and Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart Inc. made the list later. The world’s largest retailer, however, in late 2017 had started allowing customers in limited locations to order items through its online grocery pickup service and then pay for it in person at the stores. 

 

Access to convenience and to quality, fresh groceries shouldn't be dictated by how you pay,'' Walmart said.This pilot program is a great step forward, and we are eager to expand this to customers in other states where we already have a great online grocery.” 

 

Walmart said that nearly 300 locations with grocery pickup in the states will be part of the USDA government program. 

National Enquirer Being Sold to Former Newsstand Mogul 

The National Enquirer is being sold to the former head of the airport newsstand company Hudson News following a rocky year in which the tabloid was accused of burying stories that could have hurt Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

 

Tabloid owner American Media said Thursday that it plans to sell the supermarket weekly to James Cohen. Financial terms were not immediately disclosed for the deal, which included two other American Media tabloids, the Globe and National Examiner.  

  

American Media said last week that it wanted to get out of the tabloid business to focus on its other operations, which includes its teen brand and broadcast platforms.

Non-prosecution agreement

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan agreed last year not to prosecute American Media in exchange for the company’s cooperation in a campaign finance investigation. That probe eventually led to a three-year prison term for Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen for campaign violations among other charges.

American Media admitted it had paid $150,000 to keep former Playboy model Karen McDougal quiet about an alleged affair with Trump to help his campaign. Trump has denied an affair.  

The sale would end a longtime relationship between the Enquirer and Trump. Under the aegis of American Media CEO David Pecker, the tabloid has for years buried potentially embarrassing stories about Trump and other favored celebrities by buying the rights to them and never publishing in a practice called “catch and kill.” 

 

The Associated Press reported last year that Pecker kept a safe in the Enquirer’s office that held documents on buried stories, including those involving Trump. 

Whether James Cohen has any allegiances to Trump is not clear. While he was a registered Republican as late as 2017, according to Nexis records, he has given to both Republicans and Democrats. That included $17,300 in 2016 to an arm of the Democratic National Committee and $2,500 to the Republican National Committee in 2012.

News of the sale comes two months after Amazon chief Jeff Bezos publicly accused the Enquirer of trying to blackmail him by threatening to publish explicit photos of him. 

An American Media attorney denied the charge, but it threatened potentially big legal costs by upending American Media’s non-prosecution agreement in the hush money case. The AP reported that federal prosecutors were looking into whether the publisher violated terms of the deal, which included a promise not to break any laws in the future.

Heavy debt load

The Bezos accusation comes at a difficult time for American Media. It has financed several recent acquisitions with borrowed money and has been struggling under a heavy debt load. American Media said the Cohen deal would help reduce the amount it needs to pay back, leaving it with $355 million in debt. 

 

The Washington Post, which earlier reported the sale, said Cohen will pay $100 million in the deal.

Cohen’s family had run a magazine and newspaper distributor for decades before his father branched into newsstand stores in 1980s, starting with a single one at LaGuardia Airport. Before he died in 2012, the father had opened more than 600 stores. 

 

After the death, James Cohen’s niece alleged her uncle had cheated her out of her inheritance. She lost the case. 

 

The family sold a majority stake in the chain about a decade ago. The business is now owned by Dufry, an operator of duty-free stores in which James Cohen is a major shareholder. 

 

Cohen still owns a magazine and newspaper distributor called Hudson News Distributors. In addition, he runs a real estate developer and a publishing company, which owns Gallerie, an art and design magazine. 

 

Cohen has reportedly been involved in American Media deals before. The New York Times reports that, in 2011, Cohen invested in the company’s American edition of OK!, a British tabloid. 

Officials Pay Tribute to Victims of Madeira Tourist Bus Crash

In a show of solidarity, the foreign ministers of Germany and Portugal laid two wreaths near the site where 29 German tourists died on Wednesday after their bus overturned on the Portuguese island of Madeira.

The bus — carrying 55 tourists, a guide and a driver — veered off a steep road in the coastal town of Canico, near Madeira’s capital city, Funchal, and came to a halt next to a house, which was damaged in the crash, authorities said.

Portugal’s public prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into the accident, the cause of which authorities said they could not yet determine. Local TV channel SIC attributed it to either brake failure or a problem with the accelerator cable.

Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, landed in Madeira on Thursday evening with a team of doctors, psychologists and consular officials to meet those affected and thank Portugal for its help.

As soon as he touched down, the minister and his team headed to the scene of the crash, where he paid tribute to the victims and, alongside his Portuguese counterpart, held a minute of silence.

Flowers left near accident site

Shocked residents also laid flowers by the road where the accident took place.

“This is a terrible event,” Maas told reporters during his visit to the site. “We can’t just stay in Germany watching and celebrating Easter.”

Maas then visited Funchal’s hospital, where 28 people were treated for head, abdominal, chest and other injuries, a hospital spokesman said on Thursday morning.

A statement released on Thursday evening by Madeira’s regional health service confirmed that 17 of the 28 injured remained in hospital and that 10 people were already discharged.

None of those injured are currently in a life-threatening condition, Portugal’s foreign minister, Augusto Santos Silva, told reporters after he arrived in Madeira on Thursday afternoon.

“We are working flat-out to bring people who are injured and capable of being transported, to identify those who have died and to inform their families.” Maas said. “It is very difficult work.”

Many victims were retirees

Authorities on the island confirmed all 29 people killed were German. Madeira’s regional health service said 17 were women and 12 were men. Many were retirees, said Germany’s best-selling daily, Bild.

The 29 victims were members of a bigger holiday group, other members of which were traveling on another bus, a regional civil protection spokesman said.

Two of the injured were Portuguese and the rest were foreign nationals, a hospital spokesman said. Santos Silva confirmed the two Portuguese citizens were the driver and the tour guide.

Images taken by Reuters photographers on Thursday showed the bulk of the wreckage had been removed, leaving some debris still scattered on the ground.

Tributes poured in and three days of mourning were declared in Portugal on Thursday in honor of the victims of the bus crash.

“I have no words to describe what happened. I cannot face the suffering of these people,” Canico Mayor Filipe Sousa told SIC TV.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa sent his “deepest condolences” to victims’ families, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “sadness and shock” at the scale of the tragedy.

Slight US Boost Seen From New North American Trade Pact

The new North American free trade pact would modestly boost the U.S. economy, especially auto parts production, but may curb vehicle assembly and limit consumer choice in cars, a hotly anticipated analysis from the 

U.S. International Trade Commission showed on Thursday. 

The ITC report is a crucial step in the push for Congress to consider ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which was signed by President Donald Trump and the leaders of the other two countries last year to replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. 

The report estimates that annual U.S. real gross domestic product would increase by 0.35 percent, or $68.5 billion, on an annual basis compared with a NAFTA baseline, and would add 176,000 U.S. jobs, while raising U.S. exports. 

The ITC’s estimates are for year six of the trade deal, once it is fully implemented. 

The trade deal’s success or failure in Congress could be determined by how it is expected to affect the U.S. auto industry, a sector that steadily drained jobs to Mexico under NAFTA. The USMCA deal contains much tighter regional content rules, requiring that 75 percent of a vehicle’s value be sourced in North America versus 62.5 percent currently, and 40 to 45 

percent produced in high-wage areas, namely the United States 

and Canada. 

Auto industry employment would rise by 30,000 jobs for parts and engine production, but U.S. vehicle assembly would decline. 

U.S. vehicle prices would rise up to 1.6 percent, causing consumption to fall by 140,000 units per year, or about 1.25 percent of 2017 sales, the report said. 

The report overall was more positive than initially anticipated by economists, who said the traditional economic models used by the ITC to measure previous trade deals would result in minimal gains for the United States. 

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told Reuters that he was pleasantly surprised by the results, which used different modeling methods that he called “accurate and well done.” 

“Their estimate is a lot closer to what we think USMCA will do than I expected,” Hassett in a telephone interview. “This is very strong argument for passing the USMCA.” 

Concerns not alleviated

But some key Democrats were not swayed from their demands for improvements to the enforcement of new labor standards before they consider USMCA. Democrats control the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, chairman of the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee, said that he had already believed the trade deal needed changes before it could be considered by the House. “Nothing in this report alleviates those concerns,” he said. 

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee said, “The administration shouldn’t squander the opportunity to lock in real, enforceable labor standards in Mexico.” 

The ITC report said Mexican union wages would rise by 17.2 percent if the labor provisions agreed to in the USMCA were enforced. Even so, Mexican factory wages would remain far below those in the United States. 

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, praised the report for highlighting benefits beyond tariff reductions. 

“Many of the significant improvements in USMCA are reducing non-tariff barriers and implementing rules and fair practices that will help U.S. workers, jobs and businesses tremendously over the coming years,” Grassley said in an emailed statement. 

 

Dueling analyses

The U.S. trade representative’s office had prepared a separate analysis of the USMCA’s automotive benefits that industry officials had described as a rosier alternative view of USMCA aimed at limiting any potential damage from the ITC report. 

USTR estimated that the trade deal would create 76,000 automotive sector jobs within five years as automakers invest $34 billion in new plants to comply with the regional content rules. The total includes about $15 billion in projects already announced. 

USTR officials said their analysis was based on plans disclosed by automakers to the trade agency for compliance with the new agreement’s tighter rules of origin.

“They have verbally committed to us that they intend to comply with the rules,” a senior USTR official said. “And they have told us that this is not going to have significant upward pressure on vehicle prices.” 

But the ITC report said some automakers may decide not to offer vehicles that would be too expensive to bring into compliance with the deal, reducing consumer choice in the U.S. auto market. 

The trade group representing Detroit automakers Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler said it viewed the USTR analysis as more accurate than the ITC’s. 

The ITC “underestimates the longer-term investments and increased U.S. auto parts sourcing that will be made in our sector as a result of the certainty and predictability the USMCA will deliver,” Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council, said in a statement. 

The USMCA deal will also lead to new access for U.S. exports of dairy, poultry and egg products to Canada and U.S. imports of sugar and sugar-containing products from Canada, the ITC said. 

The ITC’s forecast estimated total U.S. dairy product output would increase by $226.8 million, or 0.1 percent. U.S. agriculture and food exports overall would increase by $435 million.