President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with a number of House Republicans later Tuesday as the White House steps up efforts to increase support for the proposed trade agreement to replace NAFTA.
The afternoon meeting comes after Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer courted House Democrats earlier this month with closed-door meetings on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. It would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement if simple majorities in the House and Senate approve it.
Kevin Brady, ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee, said Monday night that he does not know how many GOP lawmakers have accepted the White House invitation for the session.
However, Brady said he and Vern Buchanan of Florida, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, will discuss their outreach efforts to GOP colleagues to back the proposed trade agreement. Brady said Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana also is part of their drive to solidify Republican votes for the three-way pact.
“The president is going to meet with us about his trade agenda, specifically about our effort we recently kicked off to support passage of USMCA,” said Brady of Texas. “We’ll work for the next month or so to build support for passage.”
Brady said it’s early in the process, adding that “trade votes are always challenging and require an all-in effort by the White House and an all-in effort by those who believe in more trade.”
Getting the new NAFTA through the House will require the votes of a majority of Republicans and an undetermined number of Democrats. Brady said he is concerned many Democrats may not want to give the president a victory on trade given their opposition to most of his policies.
Democrats have voiced several concerns with the proposed pact including that it doesn’t stop the outsourcing of jobs.
“There’s no good excuse for them not to back it,” Brady said, noting that Lighthizer included labor provisions in the updated NAFTA that Democrats have long sought.
Rep. K. Michael Conaway, House Agriculture ranking member and part of the GOP whip team, also said he will be at the meeting.
The Texas Republican said he had few details about the White House meeting, but thought he’d been asked to attend because of his support for the trade agreement and his ties to rural and farm communities, key Trump constituencies.
Most agriculture groups back the agreement, which would provide the U.S. dairy industry larger export quotas that would increase sales into Canada and maintain most duty-free or low tariffs provided under the 1994 NAFTA.
“I am obviously a vocal supporter of USMCA. I want to get it done,” Conaway said.
Trump and his counterparts in Canada and Mexico signed the proposed trade agreement on Nov. 30, 2018. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement would retain NAFTA’s duty-free treatment of most goods traded among the three countries, add language on e-commerce which did not exist in 1994 and, among other provisions, would require Mexico to allow its workers to start independent unions to bargain for higher wages and better working conditions.
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