Wires

Canada PM cites 'positive momentum' on USMCA deal as top U.S. official visits

David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday cited "positive momentum" in the U.S. process to ratify a new continental trade deal, which has been in limbo for months amid concerns over labor standards.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA) was signed almost a year ago but the U.S. House of Representatives has yet to hold a formal vote on it. Democrats want better mechanisms to enforce labor and environmental protections, and to ensure that the deal does not lead to higher drug prices.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week she would not rule out a vote on the deal slipping into next year, but hoped it could happen sooner.

"It is a pleasure to see the positive momentum that seems to be happening on this renewal of this very important trade deal," Trudeau said at the start of talks in Ottawa with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat.

Mexico has already ratified the new deal, but Canada is holding back on the grounds that it wants to move in tandem with the United States.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has also made it clear that Ottawa has no intention of reopening the deal.

"We want to see this implemented ... and I can tell you with all certainty that Speaker Pelosi is committed to getting to a 'yes'," Neal told Trudeau.

A Canadian government source, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation, said Neal's visit would provide a useful update but noted that "our interlocutors are not the Democrats but the White House."

Minutes before meeting Trudeau, Neal told Global News that he was seeking Canada's help with regard to Mexico.

He is due to meet Canadian Labour Minister Patty Hajdu, who visited Mexico in August to create a new bilateral working group to help implement the USMCA's labor protections and standards.

"We think that we want a series of guarantees. They're pretty basic, and we've reached accord on many of these issues but ... nothing is settled until everything is settled," Neal told Global News. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Jonathan Oatis)