Fight over Trump's new NAFTA hits key stretch


By Alex Gangitano, The Hill



Outside groups are boosting efforts to encourage lawmakers to pass President Trump’s revised North American trade deal ahead of a critical stretch this summer.


Getting approval for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has been a top priority for K Street, and publicly those groups are expressing optimism.


Business groups have ramped up their lobbying, formed new coalitions and enlisted a number of prominent former lawmakers, including ex-Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), to push for passage.


But those efforts will be put to the test in the coming months, with advocates urging Congress to approve the deal by August in the face of strong doubts from both parties.


“The agreement is a huge win for America’s workers — and I’m confident that Speaker Pelosi will bring it to the floor in the not-too-distant future,” Rick Dearborn, founder of the Pass USMCA Coalition and Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, told The Hill.


But Alex Vogel, founder of The Vogel Group, isn’t as confident the USMCA can move through a Democratic-led House this Congress.


“The question to ask is whether the Speaker is willing to give [Trump] a win,” Vogel said.


Trump signed the deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in November, setting off a six-month timeline for Congress to take up the pact. Lawmakers, though, have yet to take the next steps to review the deal.


Democrats are pushing for tougher labor and environmental protections in the deal. During a meeting between President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), where the three agreed to work on a $2 trillion infrastructure deal, Schumer said Trump kept returning to the USMCA and asking what Democrats need to back the deal.


Vogel said that while the meeting made K Street hopeful that infrastructure could move, “I am not sure that bleeds over to USMCA.”


Top Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said last week that the White House would look at stronger enforcement measures to assuage Democrats, but it is unclear if the administration can implement those without reopening talks.


And there are also worries on the GOP side...


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