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Democrats announce agreement to push forward USMCA trade deal

House Democrats said Dec. 10 that they had reached a deal with the Trump administration to advance a revised version of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement after months of contentious closed-door meetings and public rhetoric to get the deal passed.

Speaking at a news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said a revised USMCA would be put up for a vote in the House, though a date has not yet been specified.

Pelosi said there is "no question" that the USMCA is "much better" than the existing North America Free Trade Agreement that governs trade among the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, a deal that dates back to 1994 and does not include provisions for digital trade and was seen as outdated to not reflect the state of the current North American economy.

"This is a deal we've been working to... on the path to yes," Pelosi said. "This is a victory for America's workers."

The bipartisan deal puts an end to a painstaking negotiation process since the USMCA was first signed by the three countries in November 2018 and ratified in Mexico in June.

Pelosi, who is responsible for introducing a USMCA bill in the House, has held off doing so in 2019 due to Democrats' concerns over the deal's environmental provisions, labor, enforcement and the impact on pharmaceutical prices.

Several top Democrats who chaired USMCA working groups announced that they had secured stronger environmental and labor standards and the revised deal prevents big pharma from raising prices on prescription drugs.

Pelosi said that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was on his way to Mexico on Dec. 10 for a signing ceremony of the new revised agreement with Canadian and Mexican trade leaders.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said in the press conference that "there is no reason for unnecessary delays" in holding a vote in the House on the revised USMCA, but wanted to provide time for review of the text. The trade deal must be passed in Congress for it to become law.

The "handshake" announcement was met with support by a number of industry groups that have clamored for passage of the deal to preserve and improve free trade in North America.

"We are optimistic this development will open the door to final approval of USMCA on a bipartisan basis by the end of the year, which will especially benefit American farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses," U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue said in a statement.

Farmer 'relief'

Angela Hofmann, the co-executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, an agriculture lobbying group, said in a statement that the agreement was a "relief" for U.S. farmers who have faced the brunt of retaliation in the Trump administration's various trade spats.

"If Congress can come together to pass USMCA it will deliver a measure of certainty farmers badly need right now," Hofmann said. "Farmers have been struggling in the face of bad weather and unpredictable trade policy."

Republicans accused Democrats of stifling the deal's progress as a slight to President Donald Trump, after spending months touting the benefits the deal would provide U.S. agriculture and other sectors.

The announcement also comes on the same day that Pelosi and House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against Trump.