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Dems, White House forge new North American trade deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats and the White House announced a deal Tuesday on a modified North American trade pact, handing President Donald Trump a major Capitol Hill win on the same day that impeachment charges were announced against him. Both sides hailed the deal as a win for American workers.

They said the revamped U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement was a significant improvement over the original North American Free Trade Agreement, with Democrats crowing about winning stronger provisions on enforcing the agreement while Republicans said it will help keep the economy humming along.

“There is no question of course that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in announcing the agreement, saying the pact is “infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration.”

Trump said the revamped trade pact will “be great” for the United States.

“It will be the best and most important trade deal ever made by the USA. Good for everybody – Farmers, Manufacturers, Energy, Unions – tremendous support. Importantly, we will finally end our Country’s worst Trade Deal, NAFTA!,” the president said in a tweet.

The deal announcement came on the same morning that Democrats outlined impeachment charges against Trump. The trade pact is Trump’s top Capitol Hill priority along with funding for his long-sought border fence.

Trump said it was no coincidence that Democrats announced they had come to an agreement shortly after laying out the two impeachment charges they will seek against him.

“They were very embarrassed by (impeachment), and that’s why they brought up USMCA an hour after because they figure it will muffle it a little bit,” Trump told reporters at the White House before departing for a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

In Mexico City, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland joined Mexican officials to sign the updated version of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, or USMCA, at a ceremony in Mexico City’s centuries-old National Palace.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard congratulated the negotiators for reaching a second set of agreements to answer U.S. concerns about labor rights in Mexico, and regional content.

“Mission accomplished!” Ebrard told the gathered officials.

Lighthizer praised the joint work of the Trump administration, Democrats, business and labor leaders to reach an agreement, calling it “nothing short of a miracle that we have all come together.”

“This is a win-win-win agreement which will provide stability for working people in all three countries for years to come,” Freeland said. “That is no small thing.”

A U.S. House vote is likely before Congress adjourns for the year and the Senate is likely to vote in January or February. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the vote on the trade deal will likely occur after an expected impeachment trial in the Senate.

Pelosi was the key congressional force behind the deal, which updates the 25-year-old NAFTA accord that many Democrats — especially from manufacturing areas hit hard by trade-related job losses — have long lambasted.

She and Ways and Means Committee Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., forged a positive working relationship with Lighthizer, whom they credited with working in good faith.