By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Tuesday said he was optimistic that U.S. House of Representatives leader Nancy Pelosi would allow a vote on a new North American trade agreement this summer or early fall.
Kudlow told an event hosted by CNBC that Pelosi had been very accommodating, and cited bipartisan support for the deal.
Mexico last month became the first of the three countries to ratify the trade deal and Canada is poised to follow suit. The Trump administration is pushing Democrats to approve the deal, arguing that it will boost economic growth by as much as half a percentage point of gross domestic product each year.
U.S. Democrats have threatened to block the process until their concerns over enforcement of labor provisions, environmental aspects and regulation of the pharmaceutical industry. But key lawmakers say they have been encouraged by their meetings with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Kudlow said the interaction with Pelosi had been “terrific” and Lighthizer had agreed to refrain from sending Congress formal ratification language until the Democratic leader was ready to move forward.
“I remain optimistic that she will provide a vote and it will happen sometime this summer, hopefully. It could stretch out into the autumn, but hopefully sooner,” he said. “Lighthizer has said we will submit formal legislation when she gives the green light on a vote.”
The United States, Mexico and Canada signed the USMCA last November to replace the existing North American Free Trade Agreement that governs more than $1.2 trillion of mutual trade, but lawmakers must ratify the deal in all three countries.
Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America, Jesus Seade, last week said he was working with Lighthizer to close a loophole in the trade deal’s dispute resolution mechanism, but that his country did not want to renegotiate the overall deal.
Pelosi’s spokesman Henry Connelly declined to comment on the substance of the discussions between the United States and Mexico, but said enforcement of labor provisions of the agreement remained a key concern for Democrats.
“The speaker continues to work with her caucus and the USTR to strengthen these critical areas of the proposed agreement,” Connelly said.
Pelosi told reporters last month she was “trying to keep the discussion on track,” adding that Democrats wanted to approve the pact, but not unless they were convinced it was enforceable.
She said any changes to the pact would be “surgical.”
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