WASHINGTON — The White House and House Democrats are on the cusp of finalizing a new trade deal for North America, a major achievement for President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that comes even as Democrats prepare to impeach the president.

Trump told reporters Monday that “we’re doing very well” in the negotiations, “hearing from unions and others that it’s looking good.”

“A lot of strides over the last 24 hours,” Trump said. “If they put it up for a vote, it’ll pass.”

In a sign that an agreement was imminent, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner are expected to be in Mexico Tuesday to help secure the pact.

Trump could announce the deal with Pelosi as soon as Monday night or Tuesday morning on Twitter, according to a top Republican who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

The breakthrough comes after months of back-and-forth among the White House, Canada, Mexico and House Democrats as they crafted the revised trade agreement. Trump has said replacing the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement is a top priority of his presidency, promising that it will bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

He reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico to make changes last year, but the deal could not be finalized until Democrats agreed, as they control the House of Representatives, which must vote to approve the new treaty.

Administration officials have separately indicated to key congressional committees, as well as leadership in both parties, that an agreement is close and could be announced soon, according to people familiar with the message.

White House officials were hopeful to have the deal secured by this week so that the House of Representatives could try to vote on it by Christmas.

In the meeting with Republican aides on Capitol Hill, White House deputy communications director Jessica Ditto also spoke about labor protections – a key priority for Democrats and unions – as part of the discussion and stressed that the revised North American Free Trade Agreement has the strongest provisions for labor that any trade deal has had, according to several people present who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the talks publicly.

She also stressed that Republicans need to continue to promote the trade agreement – which would be one of the most significant policy achievements in Trump’s first term – well after it’s ratified.

One point that is likely to bolster support among Democrats: Top officials at the AFL-CIO were planning to meet to discuss the near-agreement later Monday, union president Richard Trumka said.

Support from the AFL-CIO, which opposes the existing NAFTA and blames it for destroying millions of good-paying manufacturing jobs, would likely ensure backing from a majority of House Democrats if the deal is brought up for a vote.

Backing from the AFL-CIO would also indicate that Democrats had succeeded in negotiating stronger enforcement mechanisms and protections for labor than existed in the agreement signed by Trump and the leaders of Mexico and Canada a year ago.

“The USMCA they signed in 2018 is not going to be the same as the USMCA we see in 2019,” said Dan Ujczo, a trade lawyer with Dickinson Wright. “There are going to be significant differences.”

The pact must be ratified by the legislatures in all three countries before it can take effect.

“I got reason to believe – but there’s no concrete information I can give you – that it’s finalized,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said. “But I can’t – you really won’t know that for 24 hours. You’ve got three countries involved.”

Pelosi has said she wants the deal to be transformative and a blueprint for future trade deals and hopes to pass it by year’s end. A Senate vote may not occur until early next year, according to several business executives following the process.

Secretive negotiations between Lighthizer and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal have moved forward even with impeachment proceedings under way. In recent days there have been a flurry of meetings between Lighthizer and Mexican and Canadian leaders as parties to the deal sought to iron out final sticking points.

These included provisions related to steel, iron and pharmaceutical drugs.

A spokesman for Pelosi declined to comment.

The trade agreement would replace the 25-year old NAFTA, which Trump has reviled as “the worst trade deal ever,” and marks a major political win for the president.

The administration has been pushing for a House vote on the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement before the end of this year to avoid seeing the deal swallowed by 2020 campaign pressures.

Congress is expected to approve the revised agreement with overwhelming Republican support in both chambers. Pelosi has been working to secure a significant number of Democratic votes.

Amid the ongoing House impeachment inquiry, many moderate Democrats were reluctant to return to their districts without having voted on the trade deal. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other top Republicans in recent days have lambasted Pelosi and House Democrats for failing to act on USMCA.


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