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Democrats, Trump Administration Working on USMCA
USAgNet - 10/18/2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that negotiations between the Trump administration and Democrats working to secure changes to the new North American trade pact are close to wrapping up, stressing that Democrats' top concern is enforcing the deal. According to POLITICO, Democrats moved at least one step forward in their ongoing negotiations on Thursday when they received a letter from Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador pledging to fully implement sweeping labor forms required under the new agreement.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, who leads the nine-member USMCA working group, called the letter a "significant step in the right direction" but maintained there is more work to be done on the issue.

"There is still fluidity on the labor stuff and enforcement," Neal told reporters. "So we're looking for more assurances."

Neal spoke after a roughly 90-minute meeting between the working group and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer -- the trade official's second of three scheduled visits to Capitol Hill this week.

The group has been working for months to negotiate changes to the deal in four main areas: enforcement, labor and environmental standards and drug pricing provisions, POLITICO reported.

The administration and lawmakers' staff members worked throughout the two-week congressional break in an effort to get closer to a deal. Asked whether the two sides might be able to reach a handshake deal by Thanksgiving, Neal replied: "I would like to think that, but I think that even based on what we discussed here today ... that there's still a ways to go."

Lighthizer is scheduled to meet with the group again on Friday morning to keep pushing toward a deal, Neal said.

Pelosi, who met briefly with the working group on Wednesday, added that Democrats are "not there yet because we don't have the enforceability assurance that we need to have."

The Trump administration, Republicans and business groups have increased pressure to have USMCA put to a vote in Congress this fall. Democrats have said they hope that they'll be able to get a deal done this year despite the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

Pelosi also dismissed President Donald Trump and Republican leaders' claims that the impeachment inquiry is stopping Congress from getting work done.

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