Republican leaders are warning that the opportunity to vote on and pass a renegotiated NATFA deal this year is closing due to Democrat demands for some changes to the agreement.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said Monday that long-awaited compromises with Democrats who are demanding more labor and environmental guarantees are “close,” but the window to act is almost closed.
“The end of this year’s legislative session is rapidly approaching,” Grassley said. “If a deal cannot be reached by the end of this week, I do not see how USMCA can be ratified in 2019.”
The Trump administration renegotiated the NAFTA agreement last year before Democrats took control of the House. Partisanship and the fight over impeachment have sidelined the deal which administration officials and Republicans say will generate hundreds of billions in new revenue for the United States and add jobs.
President Trump promised during his 2016 campaign he would renegotiate “bad trade deals” like NAFTA. He managed to keep that promise but Congress has yet to approve the new agreement.
Grassley said the window for getting something done in 2019 is “extremely tight.”
“Now is the time for Democrats to finally act,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that her caucus is moving closer to an agreement but Democrats want to make sure that American workers’ wages aren’t undercut by cheaper labor in Mexico.
“If there is no functioning enforcement mechanism, then the agreement doesn’t mean anything and countries could take actions that violate the trade deal with impunity,” said Erin Hatch, spokeswoman for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, Massachusetts Democrat.
“This would affect anything you can think of that the agreement touches, like workers and the environment,” she added.