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White House and House Democrats close to North American trade deal

The White House, labor leaders and House Democrats are close to a North American trade deal, according to a senior administration official, although the deal is not finalized. White House officials working on the deal remain confident that the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) can be passed by the end of the year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent hours working the phone this weekend on USMCA and other legislative issues, and is also keen to finalize the deal by the end of the year. Democrats familiar with her thinking say she views a successful House vote on the trade deal as a way for the House to go out on a legislative high note before Congress heads home for the holidays.  

The White House pursued USMCA with "shoe leather" on the Hill, with particular focus on longstanding relationships, the senior administration official said.  While it's true that impeachment has made for some "fraught moments," most of the members of the Trump administration "were not hired to work on impeachment," the official said. 

If the parties are able to agree, an agreement will have been forged despite the politically charged environment, as House Democrats move forward with their impeachment proceedings against the president. The disagreements within the agreement are narrow, and the parties have continued to work on the issue throughout the impeachment inquiry. The White House has made a significant investment of time and energy on the trade deal over the past several months in the hope that bipartisan support would result in its completion.

President Trump and top officials in his administration have promoted the deal at events across the country. Mr. Trump has often said that the preceding deal, the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was "a disaster," while the new deal would be "very special." NAFTA eliminated most trade and investment barriers between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, but resulted in job losses for some U.S. workers. The Trump administration has said that USMCA would result in freer markets and fairer trade. 

A deal to tie up USMCA would resolve one simmering trade dispute even as the U.S. is set on Sunday to hike tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese imports.  

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