U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday that a version of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement that House Democrats could back was “within range” but that they needed to conduct a final review.
President Donald Trump’s administration has been pushing for the congressional passage of USMCA, which would replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump has repeatedly accused Democrats of stalling a vote on the accord to avoid granting him a political win.
“We are within range of a substantially improved agreement for America’s workers. Now, we need to see our progress in writing from the Trade Representative for final review,” Pelosi said in a statement.
House Democrats have voiced concerns over the enforcement of labor and environmental provisions. Labor unions have publicly voiced opposition to the accord amid worry that it will not protect U.S. jobs.
Mexico’s government increased pressure on Democratic lawmakers on Monday to approve the trade deal and rejected demands for more labor market oversight.
Mexico, which has already ratified the USMCA, is eager for the trade accord’s approval because the country’s exports and foreign direct investment are dependent on unfettered access to the U.S. marketplace.
Canada has held back on ratifying the accord because Ottawa says it wants to move in tandem with the United States.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would this week send another letter to Ms. Pelosi, a Democrat, pressing for the ratification of the three-nation deal agreed last year known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
“I’m sure that Mrs. Pelosi and the lawmakers of the Democratic Party are going to help us,” Mr. Lopez Obrador told a regular news conference, saying he believed the U.S. Congress would approve the deal before the end of 2019.
Mexico also wrote to Ms. Pelosi last month.
Mr. Lopez Obrador said his understanding was that both Trump, who had pushed for the deal, and Republican lawmakers agreed the USMCA should be ratified soon.
Still, standing alongside Mr. Obrador, Jesus Seade, deputy foreign minister for North America and the Mexican official in charge of USMCA negotiations, said he was “pessimistic” the accord would be approved by U.S. lawmakers before 2020.
“Far from reaching a deal, in the last two weeks, statements from certain labour sectors have re-emerged, floating ideas that would be totally unacceptable to Mexico,” Mr. Seade said.
Enforcement remained a bone of contention, Mr. Seade said, noting that there were those on the U.S. side seeking to impose “more intrusive” mechanisms to bind Mexico.
“We told them we won’t accept that,” he said.
The USMCA was agreed after a lengthy negotiation to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).