Manufacturers group lobbies Congress for new North America trade deal

Manufacturers group lobbies Congress for new North America trade deal
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The nation's main trade group for manufacturers on Wednesday stepped up pressure on members of Congress to approve President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE's revised North American trade deal. 

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which has been among the loudest supporters of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), brought together 132 members of the manufacturing community to call for the deal's swift approval.

Manufacturers visited 130 members of Congress, the majority of which were House offices and particularly Democrats, to urge approval for the deal replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

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Trump signed the revised trade deal in November, setting off a six-month timeline for Congress to take up the pact. Trump has given his required 30-day notice that he intends to submit the deal to Congress.

While U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerOn The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports Chinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report The Trump economy keeps roaring ahead MORE has been frequently meeting with lawmakers to push for a deal, Democrats still want to see stricter enforcement provisions, like labor rules in Mexico, as well as more environmental protections.

Linda Dempsey, NAM’s vice president of international economic affairs policy, said manufacturers came out of the meetings on Capitol Hill feeling optimistic.

“For those manufacturers outside of Washington, I think there’s always a question about when and how and will something move. I think what they’re hearing today, in some cases, full commitment, in other cases, ‘we want to work with you to get this done’ and a real serious push forward,” she told The Hill.

“I think what they’re feeling is positive and feeling that they’ve made a good choice in spending a day here in Washington, D.C., talking with their lawmakers about this issue.”

NAM president Jay Timmons gave the group a call to action at a breakfast on Wednesday, which was also attended by Reps. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyRepublicans' rendezvous with reality — their plan is to cut Social Security The Social Security 2100 Act is critical for millennials and small business owners House panel releases documents of presidential tax return request before Trump MORE (R-Texas) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who spoke on the importance of USMCA.

A group of manufacturers also met with Vice President Pence on Monday to talk about the revised North American trade deal.

“This is manufacturers’ top priority this year and we had great response in terms of the folks who wanted to take a day and come to Washington and make this their sole focus,” Dempsey said. 

Canada and Mexico purchase one-fifth of the total value of U.S. manufacturing output, according to NAM. These exports support about 2 million manufacturing jobs and 40,000 small-and medium-sized businesses in the U.S.

“We’re hearing, on both sides of the aisle, a real interest in moving this agreement forward,” Dempsey said. “If anything, I am more hopeful and optimistic today than I’d been before. There’s a lot of winds in our sails in terms of how responsive members are to the manufacturers’ voices today.”

The manufacturers in D.C. represented companies that make electrical equipment, consumer products and heavy equipment, as well as many other products. 

Dempsey said manufacturers will likely continue talks with lawmakers during the August recess, when members leave Washington and return to their home districts.

“We’re hearing from our corporate members who are here today how committed they are to go back during the August recess to continue these conversations with their lawmakers and make sure that this is an absolute priority into the fall,” she said.

NAM is also a leading voice of Pass USMCA, which is a coalition of trade associations and businesses founded by Trump’s former deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn. It has since enlisted ex-Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.).

Cargill, Emerson, C.H. Robinson and the New England Council became its newest members on Wednesday, topping off its membership at 34.