As Republicans press Congress, USMCA trade deal remains stalled

As negotiators from the U.S. and Japan signed a trade deal on Monday at the White House, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence joined a chorus of Republican voices in asking Congress for a vote on a broader trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, known as the USMCA deal. 

“Hopefully that will get done in the not too distant future,” President Trump told reporters, as he stressed the importance of lowering trade barriers for American exports.

“It's a great deal for all of the countries, but in particular, it's a great deal for us,” Mr. Trump added, though some in Congress argue it's not much different than the existing NAFTA deal.

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence was in Tennessee pressing the case for the trade deal, one of several stops he's making this week.

"Mexico has already ratified the USMCA, and Canada is ready to move as soon as we do," the Vice President wrote in an op-ed. "It’s time for Congress to act."

Technically, the Congress cannot vote yet on the trade deal, because it still has not been officially submitted to the Congress, as talks continue on trade-related issues like labor standards in Mexico, environmental rules, and some matters related to prescription drug prices.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she remains committed to the deal - though she's not ready to call for a vote.

"We are on a path to yes, as far as the trade agreement is concerned," Pelosi told reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

But so far, there is no schedule for a vote in the House or Senate.

“The USMCA is a state-of-the-art trade deal, and if it becomes the law of the land it could serve as a template for trade deals in the future,” Pence wrote in his op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star.

Pence is certainly not the first GOP official to call for action on the agreement, as Republicans have increasingly criticized Pelosi and Democrats in public about the length of negotiations on these side issues, saying it's more than time for Congress to vote.

But at this point, the agreement has not been officially sent to the Congress for action, because that move would trigger a countdown clock, which could endanger legislative action on the plan.

Down Pennsylvania Avenue, President Trump has blamed the lack of action on trade legislation on the Democratic Party's effort in Congress on impeachment.

So, at this point, there's a lot of talk - but, still a stalemate over the USMCA deal.

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