House Dems, Trump administration fail to reach deal on USMCA trade agreement

Key Points
  • House Democrats and the Trump administration did not come to a deal on moving forward with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement during a meeting Thursday. 
  • Rep. Richard Neal says the sides made progress during a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. 
  • Earlier, Pelosi questioned whether Democrats could ratify the agreement this year even if they reached an agreement with the Trump administration Thursday.
Nancy Pelosi (right), speaker of the United States of House of Representatives with Richard Neal (left,) Chair to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Liam McBurney | PA Images | Getty Images

House Democrats and the Trump administration did not come to an agreement on moving forward with President Donald Trump's new North American trade deal during a meeting Thursday.

Lawmakers and the White House have worked for weeks to resolve Democratic concerns about enforcement tools for labor and environmental standards under the deal, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Leaving a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said the sides made progress but did not strike a final agreement, his office confirmed.

A spokesman for Pelosi said the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, was "productive."

"Progress was made in narrowing the differences, and work continues. We can reach an agreement on USMCA when the Trade Representative makes the agreement enforceable for American workers," the spokesman said.

Neal told reporters it is "possible" the House could vote on USMCA, Trump's replacement for NAFTA, by the end of the year. Before the Democrats huddled with Lighthizer, Pelosi told reporters that "I'm not even sure if we came to an agreement today that it would be enough time to finish" before 2020.

Nancy Pelosi says a USMCA trade deal breakthrough could be 'imminent'

The USTR did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Trump has pushed to ratify the deal by the end of the year. Replacing NAFTA, which he railed against as a job killer, has been one of the president's top economic and political priorities ahead of the 2020 election.

Pelosi and Neal's meeting with Trump's trade representative follows Tuesday talks with a key labor leader, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Their meeting with Trumka came a day after he said "we are not there yet" on an agreement. He added that "we cannot and will not support any deal that does not deliver for working people."

The Trump administration needs to submit ratifying legislation to Congress for the House to move forward with approving the agreement. Once the White House submits text, it starts a 90-day window to approve USMCA.

Mexico has ratified the agreement, while Canada has not.

Labor groups and Democrats have worried the agreement will not go far enough to boost wages in Mexico and stop U.S. companies from moving jobs south.

Many business organizations have pushed for swift ratification of the deal as they seek certainty in the two largest U.S. export markets. The U.S. sent about $300 billion and $265 billion in goods to Canada and Mexico, respectively, last year.

Republicans have pressured House Democrats to approve the trade deal. They have accused Democrats of disregarding economic policy as they move forward with an impeachment inquiry into Trump.

"If the House cannot pass the USMCA this year, there is no way they'll be able to claim the people's business has not taken a backseat to impeachment," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier Thursday.

Vice President Mike Pence also targeted Pelosi on Thursday for failing to pass the deal more than a year after the three countries reached it.

"Enough is enough, the American people deserve better!" he tweeted.

Pence tweet

Pelosi has repeatedly said she believes the House can legislate and carry out the impeachment inquiry at the same time.

Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.