Democrats are calling for a renegotiation of the replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California previously said she didn’t want to rush a vote on the new deal.
Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, chairman of the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee, said he doesn’t see how Congress could approve a trade deal in the next three weeks, before the August recess.
“The Trump administration has been pushing for approval of the deal, known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), by August due to concerns that the 2020 presidential campaign will make it politically impossible to complete the deal this fall,” The Hill noted.
But Pelosi insisted House Democrats want to get the deal done, referencing U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s ongoing meetings with Democrats to discuss it.
“[Lighthizer] frequently will say, ‘We just don’t want to get this into the presidential.’ And I say, ‘These presidential candidates, there are 20, and I think most of them probably would want a better NAFTA.’ I certainly don’t speak for them. But, that really doesn’t have anything to do with — it’s about the substance of the agreement, not the politics at all,” Pelosi said at a news conference prior to the House’s Independence Day recess.
During a breakfast for journalists organized by the Christian Science Monitor in June, Pelosi said she would not support a deal that is “NAFTA with sugar on top,” according to Reuters.
She and other House Democrats have called for changes to environmental and labor provisions within the deal.
Pelosi repeated some of these sentiments during her news conference prior to the July 4 recess.
“As I say to the president, to the administration, you have leverage. We want to change NAFTA,” Pelosi said, as The Hill reported. “I think that’s across the board that we do and everybody’s working very hard to understand the differences, to try to eliminate some or prioritize as we go along. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to do something.”
Pelosi’s attempts to delay the new trade deal’s approval appear contradictory to her previous position on passing the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.
In 2010, Pelosi said Congress would “have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” according to Reason.
A majority of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are demanding similar changes to the trade deal that House Democrats want.
But some believe Democrats are delaying the new deal simply because they want to stop Trump being able to take credit for an accomplishment.
“The White House and USTR are working in good faith and constructively with members to address their concerns and Congress needs to approve USMCA, the best trade agreement ever negotiated, as soon as possible,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere told The Hill.
Mexico became the first country to sign the agreement in June. While Canada has yet to sign it, all three countries involved are resistant to making changes.
Though many lawmakers don’t expect the deal to be signed anytime soon, some groups are still pushing.
Trade Works for America, a pro-USMCA advocacy group, is running ads across 52 congressional districts calling on lawmakers to support the agreement.
Marie Sanderson, an adviser to Trade Works for America, said she believes there is hope after Pelosi created a working group to negotiate changes.
“What we’re doing is making sure that we create every opportunity for it to pass this summer,” Sanderson told The Hill.
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