WASHINGTON -- A major U.S. labor leader on Monday said there was more work to do on a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, pushing back against comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that a breakthrough was imminent.
U.S. President Donald Trump and top administration officials on Tuesday renewed their pressure on Congress to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, dismissing as purely political efforts by House Democrats to shore up enforcement of the trade agreement's labor and environmental provisions.
The trade pact holds massive implications for North American automakers and their suppliers, which routinely ship parts and components back and forth across borders as part of the auto assembly process.
Pelosi last week predicted a breakthrough in the talks was imminent. But she faces continued opposition from labor unions who felt burned by the North American Free Trade Agreement.
AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka told union members in Maryland on Monday evening that NAFTA had been "a disaster for working people," with Maryland alone losing more than 70,000 manufacturing jobs.
"We've been lobbying the White House specifically on NAFTA for more than two years, slowly but surely moving the ball down the field. But we are not there yet," Trumka said. "Let me repeat: we are not there yet."
Excerpts of his remarks were provided to Reuters by an AFL-CIO spokeswoman.
Trumka said there was pressure to "fold on core issues" to secure a deal, but vowed not to let that happen, because millions of jobs were at stake.
"Getting this done right is more important than getting it done fast. So until the administration can show us in writing that the new NAFTA is truly enforceable, with stronger labor standards, there is still more work to be done," he said.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday said the agreement included much tighter environmental provisions and worker protections than any previous U.S. trade agreement.
"We have no doubt that if Speaker Pelosi lets it come to the floor, it will pass overwhelmingly," Ross told a talk radio program during an interview marathon at the White House on Tuesday, part of the concerted push by the Trump administration for passage of USMCA.
USMCA, signed by the three countries about a year ago in an effort to replace the $1 trillion NAFTA, must be passed by lawmakers in all three countries.
Mexico has already ratified the new deal, while Canada says it is waiting to move in tandem with the United States.
Trumka is due to meet with freshmen Democrats in the House on Tuesday, Politico reported late on Monday.