November 1, 2019 12:30 PM, EDT

Pelosi Calls USMCA ‘Easiest Trade Deal,’ Sees Vote When Ready

Nancy PelosiHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during an interview in New York on Nov. 1. (Kholood Eid/Bloomberg)

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said President Donald Trump’s USMCA deal is the “easiest trade deal that we’ve ever done.”

“We’re on a path to yes, and I think every day brings us closer to agreement,” Pelosi told a roundtable with Bloomberg reporters and editors Nov. 1. “I’d like to have it done as soon as it’s ready. I wouldn’t rule it out next year. Hopefully we can do it sooner, but I said when it’s ready, we’ll do it.”

Democratic negotiators and the Trump administration are close to finalizing fixes to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Pelosi said, adding that she believes the deal could serve as a template for future trade agreements if they get it right.

Her positive attitude on the trade deal comes after the House on Oct. 31 voted to formalize its impeachment investigation of the president, marking the beginning of the public phase of the process.

Pelosi said that approving the trade agreement won’t be influenced by the impeachment inquiry, and the timeline will depend on when the deal is ready.

Earlier this year, Pelosi designated a group of Democrats to negotiate changes to the agreement with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, focusing in particular on strengthening the labor and enforcement provisions.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, who is leading the Democratic working group, said this week that the two sides made significant progress. He also called on AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Lighthizer and committee staff to meet soon to resolve outstanding differences.

Trumka this week met with progressive lawmakers and told them not to rush to a vote. At the same time, he indicated that the negotiators are getting close to the finish line.

So far, many labor groups have said the agreement isn’t good enough, but it’s not clear if they would pressure Democrats to kill the entire deal.

Republican lawmakers and Trump administration officials have become increasingly concerned that time is running out for a vote on the agreement this year and that it won’t be possible to consider it next year, people familiar with the internal deliberations said.

Bloomberg News reported earlier this week that the administration and Congress are still negotiating and have major differences on the language of the legislation that lawmakers will vote on, indicating another uphill battle.

Erik Wasson contributed to this report.

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