By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media
The Trump administration on Sept. 11 sent House Democrats its latest proposals for addressing concerns about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), legislators said this week.
During a Sept. 12 press briefing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said House Democrats are waiting on improvements to language concerning enforceability of the trade agreement. “We’re just waiting for language on enforceability… I’m optimistic as we go forward that we will come to terms,” she said.
Pelosi appointed a group of lawmakers to work with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer during the August recess to resolve Democrats’ concerns about labor, environment, pharmaceuticals and enforcement provisions within the agreement. Negotiations to move the landmark trade deal toward a House floor vote depend on this group of Democrats and the USTR’s counter-proposals. The next few weeks are critical for Pelosi to observe enough Democratic support before putting the USMCA up for a vote. Once the enacting 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.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters earlier in the week that Lighthizer expects to reach agreement this month with House Democrats. “Lighthizer figures this is all going to be done in negotiations during September,” Grassley said, adding that he’s “convinced it will pass” if the House votes on it. As Finance Committee chairman, Grassley will have a lead role in Senate action on USMCA, but the House is required to vote first.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, told the media he’s certain Congress will pass USMCA this year. “I’m going to give it a 100 percent here because it’s so important for this country and I can’t imagine that Nancy Pelosi would not put this on the floor to at least have a vote,” Navarro told CNBC in an interview on Sept. 10.
NGFA members can still send emails, phone calls and tweets to lawmakers urging support of the USMCA trade agreement, which will preserve or expand upon critical market access for U.S. agricultural products in the North American market. NGFA members have noted in their messages that prompt ratification of USMCA is an essential predicate to securing much-needed trade agreements with other major U.S. food and ag markets, including Japan and other Pacific Rim countries.