The Trump administration submitted Thursday a summary of the legal changes required to begin the approval process for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement that is to replace NAFTA, pressuring House Democrats, who have opposed the deal, to seriously consider it.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer submitted the draft to Congress, kicking off a 30-day period for Democratic lawmakers to reach an agreement with the Trump administration on the text of the bill to enact the deal. After that period the White House could decide to submit legislation of the deal for Congress to consider, but is not obliged to do so, CNN informs.
The administration’s goal is to have the deal ratified before the end of this year and with Thursday’s move, a vote would be set up in the fall if the President puts forward the legislation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly responded to the move, telling the White House not to move forward with the formal process as Democrats are seeking that certain aspects of the revised pact be changed.
“The Trump Administration’s decision to send Congress a draft statement of administrative action before we have finished working with US Trade Representative Lighthizer to ensure the USMCA benefits American workers and farmers is not a positive step,” she said. “It indicates a lack of knowledge on the part of the administration on the policy and process to pass a trade agreement,” Pelosi added.
The sticking points in the agreement for Democrats have been environmental and labor aspects of it, and some have even gone so far as to call on President Donald Trump to reopen negotiations. In a letter to the House speaker, Lighthizer himself acknowledged there were issues that remain unresolved.
“Submission of the draft SAA does not limit our ability to find solutions to address concerns Members have raised about enforcement of the labor and environmental provisions of the Agreement and pharmaceutical pricing,” he wrote. “We are confident those concerns can be addressed to the satisfaction of the vast majority of Members from both parties through the implementing legislation or otherwise.”
According to a senior administration official, there was a widespread belief among White House aides that additional pressure needed to be put on Pelosi, resulting in Thursday’s move. But not everyone backed the decision, with some saying that the President should negotiate further with Democrats to garner more support in Congress.
The decision comes at a time when Vice President Mike Pence is in Canada where steps have already been taken to begin the ratification of the USMCA, CNN adds.