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UPDATE 3-Trump pushes Congress to pass USMCA as AFL-CIO steps on brakes

Andrea Shalal

(Adds comments from Representative Neal, Senator Grassley)

WASHINGTON, Nov 19 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump and top administration officials on Tuesday renewed pressure on Congress to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, after a major U.S. labor leader said there was more work to do on the deal.

The White House has dismissed House Democrats' efforts to shore up enforcement of the trade agreement's labor and environmental provisions, which are key union concerns, as purely political.

Trump accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Tuesday of being unable to get the bill "off her desk," while claiming Democrats, unions and farmers were in favor. "She's using USMCA, because she doesn't have the impeachment votes," the president said, without explanation.

Pelosi last week predicted a breakthrough in the talks was imminent. But she faces continued opposition from labor unions who felt burned by the $ 1 trillion North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that became law in 1993.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told union members in Maryland on Monday NAFTA had been "a disaster for working people," with Maryland alone losing more than 70,000 manufacturing jobs.

"We've been lobbying the White House specifically on NAFTA for more than two years, slowly but surely moving the ball down the field. But we are not there yet," Trumka said, according to excerpts of his remarks provided to Reuters.

Trumka said there was pressure to "fold on core issues" to secure a deal, but vowed not to let that happen. "Getting this done right is more important than getting it done fast. So until the administration can show us in writing that the new NAFTA is truly enforceable, with stronger labor standards, there is still more work to be done," he said.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday said the agreement included much tighter environmental provisions and worker protections than any previous U.S. trade agreement.

"We have no doubt that if Speaker Pelosi lets it come to the floor, it will pass overwhelmingly," Ross told a talk radio program at the White House, part of a series of interviews the Trump administration organized on the trade deal.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said he planned to meet with House leadership to discuss USMCA this week. "Everything I've heard is positive," he told reporters on a teleconference. "I think we'll get this done before we celebrate Christmas."

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal was also upbeat, telling reporters House Democrats had narrowed their differences with the Trump administration, adding, "We all have the end zone in sight."

He said there were four or five issues that needed to be resolved with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, but it was critical to ratify the deal by the end of the year to help stabilize markets.

Labor enforcement was the last hurdle, and the key to ensuring broad support in Congress would be convincing Trumka the new trade agreement was better than NAFTA, Neal said.

The USMCA, signed by the three countries about a year ago in an effort to replace NAFTA, must be passed by lawmakers in all three countries.

Mexico has already ratified the new deal, while Canada says it is waiting to move in tandem with the United States.

Pelosi introduced Trumka at a meeting attended by about 40 newly elected Democrats at the Capitol on Tuesday, according to a source in the room. The union leader emphasized the need for solidarity at this "most critical" stage of negotiations and said the union remained concerned about Mexico's ability to implement and sustain labor reforms.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Richard Cowan; Editing by Heather Timmons, Nick Zieminski and Tom Brown)