Business groups keep pressure for trade deal amid impeachment fight

Business groups keep pressure for trade deal amid impeachment fight
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Business groups are keeping pressure on Congress to approve President TrumpDonald John TrumpMilitary personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has total of 20 patients: report Fauci says that all states should have stay-at-home orders MORE's trade deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement despite the impeachment drama overtaking Washington.

“Irrespective of impeachment, members of both parties have a real need to show they can govern and get things done, which means enacting policies that solve problems,” Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told The Hill. “That is why USMCA is so critical. It is good policy that can and should become law.”

The administration and Democratic House are negotiating on changes to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in hopes of a vote on the trade deal this year. But time is running short with Congress already facing a tight legislative calendar and competing priorities in addition to the impeachment inquiry.


Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNJ governor calls for assessment of coronavirus response after crisis abates Overnight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Hillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus MORE (D-Calif.) touted progress this week, saying that “every day we’re becoming closer” to an agreement. But Republicans are warning that Democrats' impeachment work could kill chances for the agreement to pass this year.

Trade groups have been keeping up the pressure to ensure the agreement stays in the spotlight.

The National Association of Manufacturers is teaming up with SCHOTT North America, a glass manufacturer, on Monday to host Vice President Pence for an event in Duryea, Pa., where Pence will highlight the importance of USMCA for manufacturers and employees in the state.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) wrote a letter to Ways and Means Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealPelosi forms House committee to oversee coronavirus response Trump's ambitious infrastructure vision faces Senate GOP roadblock  Mnuchin says Social Security recipients will automatically get coronavirus checks MORE (D-Mass.) this week, urging him to “expeditiously” finish negotiations on the deal. 

“While AEM understands that members of the working group are attempting to tackle outstanding concerns with the agreement, we urge you to move forward quickly,” AEM president Dennis Slater wrote in the letter. “Working families, farmers and ranchers, businesses including equipment manufacturers, and all Americans are waiting for Congress to approve the agreement so our entire economy can benefit from the USMCA.”

David French, senior vice president for government relations for the National Retail Federation, said that despite the impeachment drama which has overtaken Washington, lawmakers haven't lost sight of the deal.

“Certainly, the offices that we’ve been hearing from have been focused on getting the work of USMCA done in a business-as-usual kind of manner,” he told The Hill.

“Independent of ... the impeachment inquiry, USMCA has obviously had a major push by a whole lot of folks by the business community to encourage them to get it done,” lobbyist Alex Vogel, founder of The Vogel Group, told The Hill.

Business groups are playing up the trade deal as an accomplishment both parties can tout in a divided Washington.

“If you represent a border state, two-way trade with Canada and Mexico is incredibly important,” French said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE has been in negotiations with the House USMCA working group to work through Democrats' concerns about the deal, including its enforcement, labor and environmental standards and drug pricing provisions.

Business groups said the talks have helped advance the deal.

“Lighthizer has focused a lot of his energy in the House on appealing to a block of Democrat members and satisfying their concerns. Regardless of what goes on with impeachment, I think that work had pulled a significant block of moderate Democrats into USMCA,” French said.