Pelosi Is Skeptical U.S.-Canada-Mexico Trade Deal Will Pass This Year
Date: Friday, November 22, 2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal
House speaker says Congress may not have enough time to approve pact before year’s end
WASHINGTON—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cast doubt Thursday on whether Congress will be able to pass President Trump’s renegotiated North American trade agreement this year.
“I’m not even sure if we came to an agreement today that it would be enough time to finish—it just depends on how much agreement we come to,” Mrs. Pelosi told reporters at a briefing.
Mrs. Pelosi (D., Calif.) is working with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on changes to the pact that the Trump administration negotiated with Canada and Mexico.
Her comments marked a shift from remarks a week ago, when Mrs. Pelosi said Democrats were on the verge of reaching a consensus that could be put to a vote.
Organized labor and progressive Democrats want to see stronger provisions to enforce labor and environmental provisions in Mr. Lighthizer’s pact, known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. The new deal would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta.
After her briefing Thursday, Mrs. Pelsoi and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D., Mass.) met Mr. Lighthizer on Capitol Hill in the latest effort to reach a consensus on changes to the pact.
“We’ve made progress,” Mrs. Pelosi said upon leaving the meeting. “I think we’re narrowing our differences.”
Mr. Neal said after the meeting that the two sides were working on resolving about three remaining issues, down from five previously.
A spokesman for Mrs. Pelosi said that Democrats can reach an agreement on USMCA after Mr. Lighthizer makes the agreement’s labor provisions enforceable, to the benefit of American workers.
Business groups, farmers and officials from border regions that trade heavily with Canada and Mexico have urged U.S. lawmakers to pass USMCA quickly in 2019, since trade agreements, which typically rely on complicated bipartisan support, are notoriously difficult to pass during presidential election years.
Mr. Trump has also repeatedly threatened to withdraw from Nafta, effectively terminating North America’s free-trade zone.
Democrats and labor groups have applauded the new labor rules in USMCA but want to make sure there are strong provisions to ensure that Mexico follows through with enforcement.
Mrs. Pelosi and other Democrats who voted for Nafta are disappointed in that the original North American deal didn’t sufficiently improve working conditions and salaries in Mexico, allowing the country to lure manufacturing jobs from the U.S., aides say.
In his negotiations with Canada and Mexico, Mr. Lighthizer didn’t close a key enforcement loophole highlighted by Democrats that concerns how disputes involving the three nations would be resolved.
Labor unions, Democrats and their allies say they are waiting on the Trump administration to follow through with acceptable proposals in writing to shore up USMCA in areas important to them before the House will allow the trade agreement to come to a vote. Any changes would also need approval in Mexico City and Ottawa.
If Democrats and the Trump administration reach an agreement acceptable to the two trading partners, then Congress could quickly vote on it this year or next year under so-called fast track legislation that allows for passing trade agreements without amendments or procedural delays.
Passage of a renegotiated North American trade agreement would mark a major victory for Mr. Trump, who promised in the 2016 election campaign to terminate or renegotiate Nafta.