The White House plans to trigger a process Thursday that would allow President Donald Trump to submit his new trade deal with Canada and Mexico to Congress after 30 days, three people briefed on the planning said, a direct challenge to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had warned against such a step.
The decision to send the draft “statement of administrative action” to Congress would mark a major milestone in Trump’s push to overhaul the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, but it heightens tensions with Democrats who have said they need more time to review the deal and work for changes.
Pelosi directly cautioned U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer not to send the draft report until Democrats had spent more time working with the White House on the plan. By filing the report with Congress, the White House will signal to Democrats that it does not plan to allow lawmakers to delay the process and will push for a vote soon.
A number of White House officials had urged their colleagues in the West Wing to heed Pelosi’s advice and slow the process down in a way that builds support among Democrats, a senior administration official said. But other White House officials felt Pelosi needed to be pressured to prevent her from dragging the process out, and Trump wants a revised NAFTA deal to be one of the top accomplishments of his first term.
“You have to send the language up and pressure her,” the senior administration official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations. “This is absolutely ridiculous.”
Sending the draft to Congress is a necessary step before lawmakers can formally vote on the agreement. It triggers a timeline for lawmakers to act, though, depending on negotiations and other factors, the administration could wait beyond 30 days to submit the final text of the trade deal.
Pelosi and other Democrats have said they want assurances that the new trade deal will include enforceable rules related to environmental and labor policy, among other things.
The new trade deal, which Trump calls the USMCA, aims to encourage more automotive and other manufacturing in North America, tightening rules to make it harder for products made in China and elsewhere to avoid import penalties. The rules would require higher wages for many workers, open up Canadian dairy markets for U.S. farmers, and increase intellectual protection rules. It would also help a range of other industries, including pharmaceutical companies.
The changes cannot be finalized until the House and Senate vote to approve the deal, something White House officials have said they want to happen this year.