U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met with House Democrats on July 11 to discuss what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has characterized as “surgical changes” they wish to incorporate into the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
During a conference call that evening with the NGFA and other industry groups, USTR officials said the meeting had gone “extremely well” but made it clear that the engagement with House Democrats will be a process of ongoing discussion that will take time to complete. This week’s meeting focused on House Democrats’ insistence on strengthening the enforcement provisions of the USMCA accord to ensure Mexico follows through on implementing reforms to its labor standards, which already have been enacted by the Mexican legislature and signed into law by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Another meeting between Lighthizer and the House Democrats tentatively is scheduled for next week. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., one of the eight members of the Democratic working group appointed by Pelosi to meet with Lighthizer, told media representatives next week’s meeting is expected to focus on strengthening USMCA’s environmental provisions.
Meanwhile, it now virtually is a foregone conclusion that a congressional vote to approve the trade agreement will be delayed until fall, and will not occur prior to Congress’s August recess. The Trump administration deferred sending USMCA implementing legislation to Congress – which it could have done as early as this week under U.S. trade law. Once the legislation is submitted, it triggers a 90-day timeline for Congress to vote on the accord, although Pelosi has the authority to modify the deadline if she wishes to do so.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee’s Trade Subcommittee, said again this week that the House still is striving to come to an agreement with the Trump administration to proceed with a vote on USMCA this fall. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, whose committee has jurisdiction over enacting trade agreements in the Senate, also said this week that the Senate will be able to pass USMCA easily once the House approves it, and cited a fall timeframe for doing so.