WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s push to get Congress to quickly pass his NAFTA replacement trade deal — a crucial deal for the auto industry — will require the president to take an uncharacteristic approach in negotiations: seek compromise while resisting strong-arm tactics.
So far, though, Trump is sticking with his coercive instincts, threatening to nullify the existing agreement a day after signing the new accord on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit. The threat, intended to spur lawmakers to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, illustrates the challenge his administration will face as it negotiates with a Democratic-led House and sets limits on changes sought by lawmakers from each party.
At stake for the president and American lawmakers is the fate of a trading bloc with about $1 trillion in annual shipments that’s lifted some industries while decimating the workers in others. For Democrats in particular, the deal provides an opening to demand concessions that favor unions and include a possible infrastructure investment package.
“There’s no question that there is a path to passage,” said Edward Alden, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The key for Democrats is whether the labor unions are prepared at least not to oppose the USMCA. Without active labor opposition, there will be a significant group of Democrats prepared to vote for this.”
Signed in Buenos Aires on Nov. 30 after more than a year of intense negotiations, USMCA is the biggest achievement in Trump’s trade agenda and its survival depends on whether the president can steer the agreement through fractious domestic politics. Even though it’s been signed by all three countries, it still must be ratified by each nation’s legislature — and particularly in the U.S., that’s where it can go sideways.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has the tough task of convincing his boss that he needs to exercise patience with lawmakers who eventually must approve his deal but are requiring changes. Lighthizer doesn’t have much wiggle room to satisfy a wide range of concerns. He says he’s willing to address demands through the implementing bill that Congress will vote on, though he ruled out reopening the deal for negotiations.
Read more >