U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed a modified North American trade pact Tuesday, declaring it is a significant improvement over the original North American Free Trade Agreement and over the first proposal from the White House.
“There is no question, of course, that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA,” Pelosi said at a Capitol Hill news conference announcing the deal. “It is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration.”
The agreement was made possible after congressional Democrats and the White House agreed on final terms, ending more than two years of talks that also included Canada and Mexico.
Pelosi and many other Democrats have long lambasted the original NAFTA accord, particularly the extensive trade-related job losses in the U.S. manufacturing sector.
U.S. President Donald Trump noted on Twitter Tuesday his trade pact apparently received “very good Democrat” support and that the agreement “will be the best and most important trade deal ever made by the USA.”
Looking like very good Democrat support for USMCA. That would be great for our Country!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2019
“Importantly,” Trump continued, “we will finally end our Country’s worst Trade Deal, NAFTA!”
As Republican leaders and lawmakers pushed Pelosi on the issue for months, Pelosi held extensive talks with the Trump administration to win stronger enforcement provisions, an apparently successful effort to win Democratic support.
She also painstakingly worked to get the support of labor, including an endorsement from the AFL-CIO, which is critical to getting congressional approval.
"For the first time, there truly will be enforceable labor standards," including a process allowing for inspections of factories, said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
Weeks of negotiations, closely watched by Democratic labor allies, bought lawmakers and administration officials together.
The deal represents a significant victory for Trump who campaigned for the presidency on a promise to renegotiate or abolish NAFTA.
When a reporter asked at the news conference why she would give Trump a political victory, Pelosi responded, “We are declaring victory for the American worker.”
NAFTA killed most tariffs and other trade barriers involving the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
The original NAFTA divided Democrats, but the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is more protectionist and labor-friendly, indicating it may be more palatable to the Democratic Party.
An unlikely coalition of critics consisting of Trump, labor unions and many Democratic legislators considered NAFTA a job killer for the U.S. because it encouraged U.S. factories to relocate to Mexico to capitalize on the country’s low-wage workers.
The proposed USMCA deal contains provisions designed to lure manufacturers back to the U.S.
It also includes updated labor regulations and more stringent enforcement provisions to hold Mexican companies more accountable on labor.
Officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico met in Mexico Tuesday to discuss the new deal.
It requires U.S. congressional approval before it is ratified.
Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar, whose district in Texas is near the U.S.-Mexico border, said Tuesday the House is planning to vote on the deal next week.