/Pelosi to meet with Trumps trade chief Wednesday

Pelosi to meet with Trumps trade chief Wednesday

Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several other Democrats are expected to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will host President Donald Trump’s top trade official as the president faces backlash from lawmakers in both parties over his increasingly aggressive and controversial trade agenda.

Pelosi is set to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday afternoon, according to two Democratic sources. Several other top House Democrats are expected to attend the talk, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts.

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The official topic of the meeting is Trump’s new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, the USMCA. But the president’s escalating trade war with China, resulting in a dramatic tariff tit for tat over the past week, is also sure to come up, according to Democratic sources.

Pelosi controls the fate of the trade deal — a successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement — which would need to be ratified by Congress. But the speaker has resisted pressure to move quickly on a vote, saying the pact won’t be considered in the House until several Democratic demands are met, including enforcement measures she wants written into the underlying deal.

Lighthizer and other administration officials have rebuffed the enforcement request, saying they will not reopen negotiations with Mexico and Canada. Senior Senate Republicans have made demands of their own, saying they won’t support the agreement until Trump lifts steel and aluminum tariffs on the two trading partners, something the president has been reluctant to do.

Lighthizer has worked to woo skeptical Democrats, meeting with the entire House Democratic Caucus in March and huddling with the Congressional Progressive Caucus late last week. But the political window to consider the agreement is closing, with lawmakers saying the deal must be ratified by the end of the summer or it likely will remain undone as Washington shifts to the 2020 presidential election.

The meeting comes as lawmakers in both parties have criticized Trump for his decision to slap a new round of tariffs on Chinese exports to the U.S. after the two countries failed to reach a trade deal last week. The move sent the stock market tumbling and elicited from China retaliatory tariffs aimed squarely at the already-fragile U.S. agriculture industry.

“I wish him success in the negotiation,” Pelosi told reporters on Monday. “But as I say, we have to use our leverage without antagonizing those who are on our side on this.”