Nov 15, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Pelosi gives Trump fresh optimism on trade deal

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly news conference.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at her weekly news conference in the U.S. Capitol. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

After weeks of venting their frustrations over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s negotiating tactics on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), current and former administration officials close to the trade talks tell Axios they’re feeling more optimistic than ever that Pelosi is close to agreeing to a deal. 

Why this matters: USMCA is Trump’s top legislative priority and represents billions in trade between America’s closest neighbors. 

Between the lines: Pelosi’s use of the word “imminent” Thursday to describe the USMCA buoyed officials who have been pushing Congress to approve it.

  • Pelosi’s comments were her “most definitive signal that the logjam is going to break soon,” per a top trade lawyer. 

What they're saying: Administration officials got an extra boost from an encouraging readout of a Democratic caucus meeting.

  • Multiple freshman members spoke up enthusiastically about the USMCA deal in the meeting and urged a vote.
  • Several members told their colleagues they won't get re-elected if the trade deal that Trump renegotiated with Mexico and Canada to replace NAFTA doesn't pass, according to three sources familiar with the meeting.

For months, the White House has put pressure on freshman Democrats who won in districts that Trump carried in 2016 and where he remains relatively popular. 

  • Vice President Mike Pence “participated in 35 events in the U.S. and Canada calling for USMCA passage,” per his office, and traveled to 15 districts held by Democrats to push the trade agreement.

Yes, but: The logjam on USMCA still hasn't broken and the legislative calendar is tight and clogged with impeachment. It’s still going to be challenging to get USMCA passed before year's end.

  • House Ways & Means Chairman Richard Neal told the House caucus that enforcement, especially around labor standards in Mexico, remained the biggest part of the outstanding issues to be resolved, according to one Democratic aide in the room for the meeting.
  • The same aide said that Ways & Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer cautioned that while the working group believes there's progress on pharmaceutical provisions and environmental protections, "We have not seen commitments in writing.”
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