U.S. President Donald Trump and top administration officials on Tuesday renewed pressure on Congress to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, after a major U.S. labor leader on Monday said there was more work to do on the deal.
The White House has dismissed House Democrats' efforts to shore up enforcement of the trade agreement's labor and environmental provisions, which are key union concerns, as purely political.
On Tuesday, Trump accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of being unable to get the bill "off her desk," while claiming Democrats, unions and farmers were in favor. "She's using USMCA, because she doesn't have the impeachment votes," the president said, without evidence.
Pelosi last week predicted a breakthrough in the talks was imminent. But she faces continued opposition from labor unions who felt burned by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that became law in 1993.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told union members in Maryland on Monday that NAFTA had been "a disaster for working people," with Maryland alone losing more than 70,000 manufacturing jobs.
"We've been lobbying the White House specifically on NAFTA for more than two years, slowly but surely moving the ball down the field. But we are not there yet," Trumka said, according to excerpts of his remarks provided to Reuters by an AFL-CIO spokeswoman.
Trumka said there was pressure to "fold on core issues" to secure a deal, but vowed not to let that happen. "Getting this done right is more important than getting it done fast. So until the administration can show us in writing that the new NAFTA is truly enforceable, with stronger labor standards, there is still more work to be done," he said.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday said the agreement included much tighter environmental provisions and worker protections than any previous U.S. trade agreement.
"We have no doubt that if Speaker Pelosi lets it come to the floor, it will pass overwhelmingly," Ross told a talk radio program at the White House on Tuesday, part of a series of interviews the Trump administration organized on the trade deal.
The USMCA, signed by the three countries about a year ago in an effort to replace the $1 trillion NAFTA, must be passed by lawmakers in all three countries.
Mexico has already ratified the new deal, while Canada says it is waiting to move in tandem with the United States.
Pelosi introduced Trumka at a meeting attended by about 40 newly elected Democrats at the Capitol on Tuesday, according to a source in the room. The union leader emphasized the need for solidarity at this "most critical" stage of negotiations and said the union remained concerned about Mexico's ability to implement and sustain labor reforms.