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Democrats announce agreement to push forward USMCA trade deal

Houston — House Democrats said Tuesday 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, Democrat-California, 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 American Free Trade Agreement that governs trade among the US, Mexico and Canada, a deal that dates back to 1994. The existing NAFTA agreement, which does not include provisions for digital trade, was seen as outdated and not reflective of the state of the current North American economy.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 because of Democrats' concerns over the deal's environmental provisions, labor, enforcement and the impact on pharmaceutical prices.

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

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

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House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, Democrat-Massachusetts, said in the press conference that "there is no reason for unnecessary delays" in holding a House vote 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," US Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue said in a statement.

-- Evan Fallor, S&P Global Market Intelligence, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Zac Aiuppa, newsdesk@spglobal.com