Key Democrat says Trump North American trade pact approval unlikely in 2019

A House Democrat playing a key role in negotiations over President Trump’s new North American trade pact said Tuesday that talks to win congressional support for the deal will likely “seep into next year.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) told The Middletown Press in an interview published Tuesday that House Democrats are unlikely to support Trump’s proposed North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rewrite before the start of 2020.

“When we get to where we need to get to, we will move,” said DeLauro, a member of a House Democratic working group negotiating with the White House on changes to the deal.

“We’re not there yet. And that’s critically important to understand.”

DeLauro’s warning is the latest sign of trouble for one of Trump’s main legislative priorities heading into the 2020 presidential election. 

While House Democrats say they are open to approving Trump’s NAFTA rewrite, called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), they have refused to take up the deal without measures to tighten labor and environmental standards and enforcement.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed optimism in reaching a deal with the administration, and Democrats have praised U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer as honest and forthright in the midst of high tensions with the White House.

But top Democratic trade leaders insist that the White House has not yet satisfied their requirements for tougher enforcement of the pact in Mexico. Democrats have also expressed concerns about USMCA’s impact on prices for certain high-cost biologic medicines.

Trump, Vice President Pence and GOP lawmakers have toured the country to build pressure on Democrats to support the deal. Top White House officials have said that they will not submit it to the House until Pelosi signs off, which is a frequent point of frustration for Republicans.

“In the days and weeks that lie ahead, we are going to continue to work every day to ensure that manufacturing across this country continues to grow and thrive and we are going to keep fighting until Congress passes the #USMCA!” Pence tweeted on Aug. 26, shortly after touting the deal in a speech in South Carolina.

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