Getting the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement through Congress has been an uphill battle.
Now, trade officials from America's two neighbors are hoping to move the needle a little on their own.
Jesus Seade, Mexico’s undersecretary for North America, is meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday, followed by a separate meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland in Ottawa. Both are aiming to reach a consensus on the final text of an addendum to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, which would replace the North American Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA, that was negotiated by the Clinton administration.
“We know there’s still a little bit more work to do. But that’s something you will be working on with our teams today," Trudeau said. "Canada is extremely supportive of Mexico’s steps towards labor reforms. And supportive of the work you’re doing."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the USMCA Democratic Working group led by Richard Neal, D-Mass., have been in talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer for several months on ways to address major sticking points in the trilateral trade agreement, including drug prices, labor standards, and environmental protection and enforcement. Under the current Trade Promotional Authority, Mexico and Canada must sign off on any updates and additions, even as an addendum, to the USMCA.
"It really has been a long, complicated journey," Seade said. "Many of the issues raised by Democrats are very valid. Good things in terms of what they raised. At the same time, after one extra year of reviewing the text, a lot of things are coming out. I think we are going to have instead of a very good agreement, an excellent one. “
Ambassador Lighthizer unveiled the agreement reached with House Democrats for the first time Wednesday morning to Undersecretary Seade and Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, who joined by phone.
After the meeting, Mexico’s negotiator said he didn’t think the proposals went too far, telling reporters: “Every single issue that has made me lose my sleep is off the table ... There is progress across the board ... We are on the way to a resolution."
Freeland arrived at the Winder building for a second meeting with Lighthizer and Seade Wednesday afternoon — welcomed by a rare public display of hugs and kisses by Ambassador Lighthizer.
The deputy prime minister did not address specifics but told reporters: “We are glad to be here, to be working with our American and Mexican colleagues to get the new NAFTA across the finish line.”
Top trade adviser Peter Navarro has slammed Pelosi for talking up USMCA but failing to act.
In developments ahead of Thanksgiving, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo that USMCA could come up for a vote as early as next week.