Business & Lobbying

Business groups keep pressure for trade deal amid impeachment fight

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The Mexican, Canadian and U.S. flags are displayed in this 2019 photo. The three countries have a trade agreement covering their massive trade and investments.

Business groups are keeping pressure on Congress to approve President Trump’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.

{mosads}Speaker Nancy Pelosi (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 Neal (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 Lighthizer 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.

Tags Donald Trump Mike Pence Nancy Pelosi Richard Neal Robert Lighthizer

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