House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who leads the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) working group, dismissed concerns that the new trade agreement wouldn’t be able to pass by the end of 2019.
“I actually feel pretty good about this,” Neal said after meeting last Wednesday with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to discuss the USMCA’s environmental, prescription drug labor and enforcement provisions. He told reporters that a lot of the issues they had with the agreement were off the table, saying that he and the USTR “have really narrowed our differences considerably.”
Though he didn’t get into the specifics of the hourlong conversation, Neal said that USTR and congressional staffers will continue discussions this week and that the working group will have another meeting with Lighthizer next week.
Despite there being only a handful of legislative days left for Congress to make a vote on the USMCA this year, Neal still maintains hope that it can get done.
“There’s a lot to do, but I’ve also watched from time to time the skill with which it’s been done — you might even say the magic with which it’s been done — so I’m not discouraged after a long experience with this,” Neal said. “I know how you can wrap things up all of a sudden.”