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October 28, 2019

Mixed Messages On Whether USMCA Will Be Ratified This Year

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the House Democrats’ Working Group on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) significantly increased the tempo of their ongoing talks, with multiple high-level meetings taking place over the past two weeks. Discussions continue to focus on some Democrats’ concerns relating to enforcement, labor, the environment, and drug prices.

U.S. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, who leads the Democrats’ work on the effort told members of the press last week that he “actually feels pretty good about this,” adding that the two sides have taken “a lot” of issues off the table and agreed not to revisit them. The two sides will continue to meet this week.

Chairman Neal’s optimism was not shared by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who will shepherd the pact through the upper chamber of Congress if and when House Democrats and the White House agree on a way to proceed. According to CNBC, Sen. Grassley said the Democratic-held House “seems to have no sense of urgency” to approve the USMCA and that it “looks increasingly less likely to act this year” on ratification. He concluded that failure to act this year “threatens passage of the trilateral deal this Congress” since 2020 “is a presidential election year.”

Mexican officials, meanwhile, are optimistic about the pact getting approved in both the United States and Canada (where members of parliament have been waiting until after the election to vote on the deal). In a press conference last week, Mexican Undersecretary of Foreign Relations Jesus Seade said the USMCA could be approved within weeks and implemented within three months.