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Pelosi, White House near handshake deal on new NAFTA agreement

Jenny Leonard, Erik Wasson and Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration and House Democrats are on the verge of announcing a handshake deal on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement, according to people familiar with the negotiations, paving the way for approval of the deal as early as this month while Democrats gear up for an impeachment vote.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reviewing changes to the agreement that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his Mexican counterpart, Jesus Seade, have put on paper over the past week.

The two trade officials exchanged proposals on labor inspection rules and tougher steel provisions and finalized a compromise package late Friday that they submitted to Pelosi for approval, the people said. The demand from the U.S. regarding steel and aluminum, which people briefed on the talks said was from the United Steelworkers union, threatened to stall the negotiations last week.

Lighthizer and Seade are scheduled to meet in Washington again on Monday and could announce a deal.

"Now is the time to vote on it," Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday. "I am optimistic we can reach a deal."

Passing the trade deal is President Donald Trump's top legislative priority and would give him a political win as he faces an impeachment inquiry and heads into a re-election campaign next year. At the same time, it allows Democrats to show they are capable of legislating even as they are investigating the Trump administration.

 

Pelosi last month cautioned that even with a deal, there might not be enough time to vote on the agreement this year, reminding her members that "in a world of instant gratification," legislating takes time.

There are still a number of procedural hurdles before the agreement can come to the floor for a vote, including committee hearings and review of the implementing bill in the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees. Those steps could be waived to save time, though, and people familiar with the talks said lawmakers are likely to skip some of them.

Democrats from rural, swing districts are especially eager to get a deal done. Farmers have faced devastating economic losses this year because of the trade war with China, although the president has blamed some of that on the delay in getting the USMCA approved.

The U.S. International Trade Commission, an independent government panel, in an April analysis said USMCA would boost the U.S. economy by 0.35% and lead to 176,000 new jobs in the sixth year after implementation, a small addition to 132 million people employed full time in the U.S.

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