Pence says clock ticking on USMCA, but Democrats won’t be rushed



Andrea Shalal, Susan Heavey and Jonas Ekblom | Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday said that a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal needs to be approved without delay, but Democrats and organized labor said certain provisions must first be improved.

Pence told reporters he was hopeful that the U.S. House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats, would pass the agreement this fall.

“The clock is ticking,” Pence said. “Canada has already begun to make it through the legislative process, Mexico has already begun making changes that we asked for. … We believe if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings it to the floor it will pass.”

The Trump administration wants Congress to approve the trade deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, but House Democrats have said they will not proceed until their concerns related to labor, climate, enforcement and pharmaceutical are met.

The agreement, which leaders from the United States, Mexico and Canada signed in November, must be ratified by lawmakers in all three countries. Mexican lawmakers have already done so.

Senator Charles Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told a hearing on Tuesday that he had an “open mind” about ways to improve the agreement, including stronger enforcement. But he warned that reopening the whole pact could cause it to unravel.

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