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Pelosi Seems to Be Pulling North American Trade Deal from the Hands of Trump

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Pelosi Seems to Be Pulling North American Trade Deal from the Hands of Trump

2019-11-15 14:27:25

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Nancy Pelosi (Image source: Screenshot)

Donald Trump focused for a time in his presidency on throwing out the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement and negotiating a new one, but we haven't heard much from his administration with regard to recent negotiations for this. 

Initially, the agreement was set with Mexico and Canada by the late President George H.W. Bush in 1994. While Trump is usually bent on throwing out legislation and deals formed by former President Barack Obama, this time he's intent on singling out this quarter-of-a-century-old deal of Bush's.

The White House announced in August 2018 that a 16-year trade deal had been reached with Mexico. His relationship with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kept Mexico from signing the deal. The U.S. neighbor to the south didn't want to move ahead without Canada. A month later Canada signed on, and it has been waiting since then for Congress to agree to it. 

Enter House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who said a new trade deal is "imminent" and that she would like to pass it by the end of the year. It can't be ignored that previously this message belonged to Trump and the White House, yet Pelosi seems to be taking over and pulling it from the president's reigns.

While it hasn't been front-page news, the speaker and other House Democrats have been negotiating with the Trump administration to reach an agreement for the deal. This clearly takes it out of Trump's hands to celebrate the deal, a position that the author of "The Art of the Deal" has pushed throughout. 

"It all comes down to enforcement," explained Pelosi. "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."

"I'd like to see us get it done this year, that would be my goal," added the speaker. "I don't imagine that it would take much more in the Senate to pass. ... I would hope that they would move quickly with this." 

Others who are involved in the negotiations, however, have stressed that much work still needs to be completed between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and the House Democratic group led by Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA).

Organized labor is still wary of a new agreement, as their belief is that Mexico has not shown it's capable of implementing the reforms of its labor standards that will be necessary to ensure American jobs don't continue to migrate south to that country, according to both labor leaders and Democrats. 

The AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council that represents more than 4.5 million workers sent a letter to lawmakers last week with a warning against a push to get the new deal passed. The letter stated that "NAFTA 2.0 as currently written does not meet the needs of working people for a new trade model that ends the race to the bottom."

Democrats insist that passing the deal depends on backing from labor, with Neal stating, "There's a series of issues that are still a bit elusive, but we're trying very hard." He continued, stating that he thinks "we would all agree that right now the proposal we have in front of us is substantially better than NAFTA that's 25 years old." He summed it up by stating, "Whether or not it's enough, we'll have to figure that out." 

Still, Pelosi remained optimistic that the deal will get the support of labor. "I think it will be a value that is shared by our friends in labor as well as the Democrats in the Congress, so we're in a good place," she shared.

Yet, Trump and other Republicans continue to complain that it's Pelosi who is holding back on bringing a new deal, known as USMCA, to a vote, explaining that she is too focused on impeaching Trump. 

Still, that keeps the speaker in the driver's seat. They've said she's the holdout. Once it passes, Democrats can say they held out for improvements to the deal for the betterment of working Americans.

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