House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) told reporters that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer should work with various labor officials on resolving issues in the labor and enforcement sections of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
“I do think that it would be a good idea if labor and the AFL-CIO and trade staff here in the House and the USTR would get together during the next ten or 12 days,” Neal said on Oct. 10 after he had a meeting with his USMCA working group and the USTR. “I think that would be very helpful while we’re back in the district.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was in meetings that week with Neal and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), followed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Neal called his discussions with Trumka “very helpful,” and said that “differences continue to narrow, and I remain optimistic.”
The USTR and AFL-CIO have yet to announce plans nor commented on whether they would be open to more meetings to work for common ground on labor provisions in the trade agreement. Labor and enforcement issues currently stand as the last of the major problems House legislators want to resolve before considering a vote on the USMCA. Other issues that the USMCA working group were working to resolve since the trade agreement’s ratification in Mexico include drug pricing and environmental provisions.
“I think everyone would acknowledge that Trumka is key,” said Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), a member of the working group. “But I would say that while he’s not there yet, he certainly has been very positive about a number of the issues that they continue to discuss.”