US Rep. Richard Neal says 'the bar for supporting a new NAFTA will be high'
Despite the White House's Monday call for Capitol Hill lawmakers to approve its proposed trilateral trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, at least one member of Massachusetts' congressional delegation noted that questions remain about the plan.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat and the House Ways and Means Committee's ranking member, lauded the administration for including Canada in its effort to update the North American Free Trade Agreement.
He, however, stressed that several questions must be answered before Congress can move forward in approving the $1.2 trillion trade deal.
Neal, for example, offered that lawmakers must assess "whether this agreement makes real improvements to the terms of the existing NAFTA or President (Barack) Obama's (Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.)"
Specifically, the congressman argued, Congress must look at the enforcement and enforceability of the new agreement's provisions, particularly those "that have always been critical to Democratic support -- the ones that provide for worker rights and environmental protections."
"The bar for supporting a new NAFTA will be high," he said in a statement. "NAFTA has had many critics over the years and its flaws are well-known. Like me, many of my colleagues did not support the deal originally. And those who did will have serious questions that they need answered before doing so again."
Neal, who has said he supports efforts to re-examine trade deals and tariffs, urged the White House in June against escalating trade tensions with Canada.
He offered at the time that while "reviewing NAFTA after 24 years is a good idea ... you can't do it with just bluster."
President Donald Trump and administration officials detailed their proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement during a Monday morning White House news conference.
The president touted the deal, which will officials said would "update and rebalance" NAFTA if approved by Congress and its foreign counterparts, as "truly historic"and "incredible."
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who noted that officials began trade negotiations just over a year ago, offered that the deal is based on three main pillars: Fairness, ambitious intellectual property provisions and new provisions to eliminate unfair trade practices, like currency manipulation.
Trump said he plans to sign the agreement and submit it to Congress by the end of November.
The president said while "in theory there should be no trouble" in lawmakers supporting the agreement, "anything you submit to Congress is trouble, no matter what."
He told reporters that he's "not confident at all" about the agreement's chances in Congress, but hopes it will gain approval.