Trump's trade rep sees progress on quick USMCA pact approval
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifies before the Senate Finance Committee in Washington on June 18, 2019. EFE-EPA/Shawn Thew
Washington, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Tuesday emphasized his office's "constructive" talks with Democratic lawmakers and said he hopes that there will be substantial progress in the coming weeks on a quick approval in Congress for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
"I am aware of specific areas where members (of Congress) have ideas to strengthen the agreement, and we are having constructive discussions on how to make improvements," Lighthizer said in his opening statement before the Senate Finance Committee.
"My hope is that working with members, we can submit implementing legislation that Congress can approve very soon. I continue to believe that the USMCA will win broad support in Congress, as it is designed to do," he said.
Lighthizer also said that he hoped that in the coming two weeks his office and lawmakers would be able to make substantial progress, reiterating that he felt the USMCA is "the strongest, most momentous trade agreement in US history. It is the gold standard for rules on the digital economy, financial services, intellectual property, etc. It will help stop the outflow of manufacturing jobs and return many to the United States."
"Its labor and environmental provisions are the most far-reaching ever in a trade agreement. The agricultural chapter will lead to increased market access and eliminate unfair trading practices by our trading partners," he added.
However, Lighthizer still has to convince House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the value of the pact, since she has the authority to present - or not - the trade agreement to the full Democratic-controlled House for debate.
The aim of the Donald Trump administration and congressional Republicans is to bring the USMCA to a congressional vote during the August recess, since thereafter lawmakers will be focusing on political activities in the run-up to the primaries in 2020.
Although she has said she is open to the pact, Pelosi has insisted that it needs certain modifications regarding workers' rights and salaries, environmental issues and matters related to the big pharmaceutical firms.
The USMCA, if approved, will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was approved in 1994 but which Trump declared was a "disaster" and insisted on renegotiating with Mexico and Canada.
The renegotiated agreement was reached between the US, Mexico and Canada last year but still must be ratified by the legislatures of the three nations. Mexico is expected to vote on the pact this week and Canada has expressed its intention to do so as well.
On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to travel to Washington to meet with Trump and congressional leaders to discuss trade relations and progress on getting the USMCA approved by the US Congress.