Nancy Pelosi says a USMCA trade deal breakthrough could be ‘imminent’



Jacob Pramuk | CNBC

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated progress Thursday toward a final agreement on President Donald Trump’s North American trade deal replacement.

House Democrats have negotiated with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as they push for better tools to enforce labor and environmental standards under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Speaking to reporters, the California Democrat said “we are moving positively” toward a deal.

“I do believe that if we can get this to the place it needs to be, which is imminent, that this can be a template for future trade agreements. A good template,” Pelosi said.

Democrats plan to hold a caucus meeting later Thursday, during which they are expected to discuss trade negotiations.

The White House aims to pass USMCA, its replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, by the end of the year as the 2020 election looms. The House has a lot on its plate before then: it has to pass government funding to avoid a shutdown, and it will push forward with its impeachment probe into Trump.

After Democrats and the administration strike a final deal, the White House will send ratifying legislation to Congress. Lawmakers would then have up to 90 days to vote on approval.

Republicans and business groups have recently increased their public pressure on the House to approve the trade deal. Major labor unions, meanwhile, have also opposed the current version, calling for stronger enforcement mechanisms for labor and environmental rules.

They have expressed concerns about Mexico upholding standards designed in part to raise wages and stop U.S. companies from moving jobs across the southern border.

Mexico has ratified USMCA, but Canada has not.

House Democrats have also kept up communication with America’s northern and southern neighbors as they move forward with talks. A group of House Democrats met earlier this month with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland in Ottawa.

NAFTA will stay in place until the countries ratify USMCA. Trump previously said he could withdraw from the agreement to force Congress to approve his replacement, but he has not yet done so.

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