President Donald Trump on Monday suggested a breakthrough was near in efforts to push a new continent-wide trade deal through the US Congress, even as lawmakers prepared to impeach him.
Trump’s remarks followed a report that US and Mexican trade negotiators have reached a deal making changes to labor enforcement under the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) signed last year.
That could remove a principal hurdle to ratification of the agreement, the fate of which has seemed to hang by a thread in recent weeks.
With the window narrowing for action by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives as 2019 draws to a close and an election year approaches, there has been a flurry of last-minute activity on the pact.
Lawmakers also face competing priorities as they press ahead with impeachment proceedings against Trump and legislation to prevent a government shutdown this month.
“I am hearing very good things,” the president said Monday. “I am hearing a lot of strides have been made over the last 48 hours.”
Top Mexican officials were due to address the media later on Monday.
Meanwhile, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, are expected Tuesday in Mexico, according to The Washington Post.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said Monday that the chances of a deal were looking up.
“We’re working hard and hopeful it will get to ratification soon,” he said.
Citing unnamed sources, Fox Business said negotiators had clinched a deal on oversight of Mexican labor laws and a final deal could emerge shortly that would allow all three countries to ratify the modified treaty.
How Democrats would ultimately respond was unclear however. A senior Democratic aide in Congress told AFP that officials on Capitol Hill were still studying the proposal.
“No agreement to announce yet,” the person said on condition of anonymity.
More than a year ago, the United States, Mexico and Canada signed an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement, changing rules on auto and digital trade, Mexican labor laws, intellectual property and dispute settlement systems for investors.
Mexican lawmakers ratified the deal in June but Democrats in Washington and US labor leaders have raised concerns — looking for stronger guarantees that new Mexican labor laws will be enforced to prevent unfair competition with US workers.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in recent weeks has sent positive signals, saying an agreement was imminent.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said last week he would not accept a US proposal for supervisors to oversee the implementation of Mexico’s labor reforms under the USMCA.