Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), speaks during a No Vote Until NAFTA 2.0 Is Fixed news conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, June 25, 2019.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A leading labor leader has cast doubts about the House quickly approving President Donald Trump’s replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement.
In an interview with The Washington Post published Wednesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said it would be a “colossal mistake” for the Democratic-held room to vote on ratifying the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement shortly. The head of the essential labour group, which represents over 12 million active and retired members across a variety of businesses, added that the arrangement “would be defeated” if the House voted before Thanksgiving.
Trumka’s remarks underscore the continuing resistance to USMCA from labour groups even as the White House and key business organizations push the deal’s accelerated approval. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Democratic negotiators have said they wish to solve concerns about the deal harming American workers or the environment before they ratify it.
The labour leader’s remarks undermine an integral claim from the president as he makes his case for the bargain: that significant labour unions back USMCA.
Spokespeople for Pelosi and the White House didn’t immediately respond to requests to comment on Trumka’s remarks.
Trump sees USMCA ratification as a leading political and financial priority ahead of this 2020 election. Throughout his 2016 campaign, the president promised to reevaluate U.S. trade relationships to prevent companies from moving production jobs out of the nation. Last month, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said he watched a “100%” opportunity the House approved USMCA at the end of the year.
Businesses reliant on trade with America’s northern and southern neighbors also have pushed for approval of the offer. Myron Brilliant, executive vice president of the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told Bloomberg last month that”we are optimistic [USMCA] will be passed later this autumn, I believe before Thanksgiving.”
Canada was the largest export market for American products this past year, followed by Mexico.
Last week, Pelosi told reporters that Democrats are “on a path to yes” about the trade deal. She added that her caucus hasn’t yet had its concerns about enforcing the agreement assuaged.
They fear USMCA won’t go far enough to prevent companies from moving to Mexico so as to employ workers for lower wages than in the U.S.
“We want to be sure that as we go forward, we are strengthening America’s working families and our farmers who are very affected by this,” she explained.