Ways and Means Chairman Says He Hopes New NAFTA Ratification Vote Held Before Thanksgiving
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., who leads the working group that aims to win changes to the NAFTA rewrite to make it more palatable to Democrats, said that "it's time to pick up the intensity of the negotiations" with the administration. "I would prefer now that the pace pick up," he said in an interview on Sept. 19, the day before the working group was to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer for the first time since they received a counterproposal from him.
"We intend to offer a courteous critique" of that counterproposal, Neal said.
Neal said he didn't want to set any artificial boundaries on the process of narrowing the gaps between the House Democrat working group and the administration, but he said he hopes the implementing bill for the new NAFTA will come to the floor before Thanksgiving.
"There's a couple of areas we're pleased with, still a couple of more to go," he said of the counterproposal. He said that enforcement "seems to be the most stubborn issue at the moment." He also said in an earlier press conference that Democrats are "making headway" on the biologics exclusivity period problem. Democrats dislike that the new NAFTA guarantees a 10-year exclusivity period for biologics in Canada and Mexico.
Neal did not directly answer a question from International Trade Today about factory inspections, saying, "We want a bolder ability -- and not intrusive, but bolder -- to be able to ascertain whether or not our partners to this hemispheric agreement are fulfilling the obligations." When asked if Mexico is open to that, Neal replied: "I expect they will be."