November 25, 2019

House Speaker Now Uncertain About USMCA Passage This Year

After weeks of optimistic rhetoric regarding passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) this year, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) altered her outlook somewhat last week.

At a briefing with reporters last Thursday, Speaker Pelosi said, “I’m not even sure if we came to an agreement today that it would be enough time to finish—it just depends on how much agreement we come to.” Her caucus has been working for months with the Trump administration to address Democrats’ concerns about the trade deal. The Wall Street Journal said the speaker’s “comments marked a shift from remarks a week ago, when Mrs. Pelosi said Democrats were on the verge of reaching a consensus that could be put to a vote.”

They also came after Richard Trumka, leader of the AFL-CIO, visited Capitol Hill outlining his union’s current opposition to the pact.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who is overseeing negotiations with the Trump administration, maintained an outlook that was more positive than the speaker’s, however. He said he “is still hopeful” a vote will happen this year, and noted he will continue to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer through the Thanksgiving break to achieve an agreement. According to Politico, Chair Neal also said, “With all seriousness, we do think we’re down to two-and-a-half, maybe three issues.”

Politico also reported that, while Speaker Pelosi’s rhetoric has shifted, negotiators have made progress. On Friday, the Washington-D.C.-based news outlet said “the administration has gone some distance toward meeting Democrats’ demands to strengthen the agreement’s labor enforcement provisions, including the acceptance of a process for inspecting production sites in Mexico to determine whether they are meeting the pact’s labor standards.” The Trump administration “also seems open to the idea of agreeing to penalties, including blocking goods at the border if they are found in violation,” Politico said.

Stay tuned to Connecting the Dots for ongoing updates about the U.S. Congress’ and the Canadian Parliament’s consideration of the pact.