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Trump pitches new North America trade deal during stop in Wisconsin

The Hill logo The Hill 7/12/2019 Brett Samuels
a man wearing a suit and tie: Trump pitches new North America trade deal during stop in Wisconsin © Getty Trump pitches new North America trade deal during stop in Wisconsin

President Trump on Friday sought to boost his renegotiated North America trade agreement during a speech to employees at a Wisconsin factory, as his top legislative priority faces an uncertain path through Congress.

The president touted the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which he announced nearly a year ago as an alternative to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trump has repeatedly slammed the latter deal as the "worst trade deal" in the country's history.

"For years members of Congress have demanded a replacement for NAFTA," Trump said during remarks at Derco Aerospace Inc. in Milwaukee.

"Now they finally have the best replacement that they could ever even imagine," he continued. "The farmers can't believe it. The manufacturers can't believe it ... the unions can't believe it. It's good for everybody."

Trump urged Congress to approve the USMCA "immediately" so that he could sign it into law. He encouraged lawmakers to view the new trade agreement as a "bipartisan bill" before attacking House Democrats over ongoing investigations into his administration.

"View it as a bipartisan bill. And it shows that Congress is doing something other than wasting time on the witch hunt and the nonsense that they work so hard at," he said. "If they worked one onehundredth as hard on immigration it would be solved in about 15 minutes. It's just a waste of time."

While Mexico has ratified the USMCA and Canada has taken steps to approve aspects of the deal, the pact has stalled in Congress as House Democrats push for additional assurances on environmental and labor protections.

Trump administration trade officials have praised Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for her collaboration in working through changes to the legislation, but time is running out if lawmakers are to approve the trade deal before the end of the year.

The odds of passage are significantly reduced at the end of the year once the focus in Washington shifts to the presidential election, though Trump suggested Friday that the political calendar should not matter.

"We shouldn't be playing around," Trump said. "And every day that goes by it gets more and more political because we get closer and closer to the election."

Congress is unable to vote on the pact until the White House sends the implementation legislation, and CNBC reported that the White House is likely to send the USMCA to Congress after Sept. 1.

The president's speech at times meandered into familiar territory as he knocked Democratic presidential candidates, derided U.S. immigration laws and defended his use of tariffs as a negotiating tool with China and other countries.

Trump's visit to Wisconsin came on the heels of his withering attacks on former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who is quoted in a forthcoming book as being critical of the president's behavior and governing sense.

"Paul Ryan was a terrible Speaker," Trump said as he departed the White House for Ryan's home state earlier in the day Friday. "Frankly, he was a baby. He didn't know what the hell he was doing."

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