Sherrod Brown: Trump’s new NAFTA will face strong Dem opposition

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei MORE (D-Ohio), a likely presidential candidate in 2020 and a leading voice on trade issues, predicted Tuesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE’s update of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will stall in Congress.

“I don’t see evidence that it’s going to pass,” Brown said at a breakfast with reporters sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. “I don’t now what Republicans are going to do. I know that there are few Democrats in the Senate that support it.”

Brown says he can’t support the deal unless its labor protection provisions are substantially strengthened.

The new accord is supposed to fulfill President Trump’s 2016 campaign promise to replace NAFTA with a better trade deal.

Brown calls it NAFTA 1.6, alluding to what he sees as the many similarities between the landmark 1994 North American treaty and Trump’s trade agreement.

Brown, who served 14 years in the House, said the new pact will have a tough time passing the lower chamber.

“It’s a big uphill fight in the House, too,” he said, citing private conversations with fellow Democrats in the House. “Labor’s overwhelmingly against it still.”

The new trade deal is supposed to receive accelerated consideration in Congress under Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast track, and could pass each chamber with simple majority votes.

But Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi, Mnuchin reach 'near-final agreement' on budget, debt ceiling Wendy Davis launches bid for Congress in Texas Steyer calls on Pelosi to cancel 'six-week vacation' for Congress MORE (D-Calif.) could circumvent fast track authority by passing a rule on the House floor.

That would set up a standoff with Trump, who could threaten to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA in order to gain leverage over lawmakers for approval of the new accord.

Asked about the possibility of Trump taking that approach, Brown said “that would be really stupid.”

Brown had been in conversations with U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerChinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report The Trump economy keeps roaring ahead Trump says no discussion of extending deadline in Chinese trade talks MORE, a fellow Ohioan born in Ashtabula, on a weekly basis during the height of the trade talks with Mexico and Canada in hopes that he could persuade the administration to include stronger worker protections in the deal.

“He thinks that he’s done the best he can, and I assume he has, but it just simply isn’t good enough for most Democrats, if not almost all of us,” Brown said of Lighthizer.

“It’s not good enough for labor, it’s not good enough for organized labor, it doesn’t work for workers. It doesn’t work for Mexican workers, in my mind,” he added.

Brown led opposition to NAFTA when he was a House lawmaker in 1993 and 1994, marshaling members of his freshman class to oppose then-President Clinton’s signature trade initiative.

He now argues that U.S. manufacturing would be healthier today if Clinton had insisted on stronger labor provisions for Mexico more than 20 years ago.

“If we had done the same construct as we did our domestic economy, there’d be a lot more manufacturing jobs in our count, because in part we’d be exporting to those countries that could afford to buy things,” Brown told reporters Tuesday.