North American trade pact could be passed before year's end, Pelosi says

WASHINGTON — The most powerful Democrat in the United States Congress says she believes members of Congress could vote on the new North American free-trade agreement before the end of the year.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, says there has been ongoing progress between congressional Democrats and Trump administration officials as the two sides broker a compromise over tougher enforcement of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s labour and environmental protections.

She says the talks are moving “positively” and suggests a deal is “imminent.”

The retooled version of NAFTA, signed by the leaders of all three countries late last year, has only been ratified by Mexico thus far. The federal Liberal government has indicated it plans to follow the U.S. lead.

Pelosi says she believes the agreement could be a template not only for future trade deals, but for the ongoing discussion about globalization around the world.

Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives ways and means committee, delivered a similarly upbeat message about the USMCA’s prospects while in Ottawa last week for meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“We’re in a good place,” Pelosi told her weekly media briefing Thursday — a news conference that was otherwise dominated by talk of the ongoing impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump.

“I want this to be a template for future trade agreements, so that the work we put in here will not only have a benefit for the USMCA, but for the globalization discussion in general … I’d like to see us get it done this year; that would be my goal.”

Pelosi said that while a lot will hinge on the language in the forthcoming implementation bill, which is the legislation to formally enact the agreement, she expects organized labour in the U.S. to be on board with what the Democrats have negotiated.

“We’ll see what the implementation is, what the enforcement is, and I think it will be a value that is shared by our friends in labour as well as the Democrats in the Congress,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Nov. 14, 2019.

The Canadian Press