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Mexican Exec Sees Chance for USMCA Passage This Year, Despite Impeachment Probe

There’s a small window for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to come up for a vote and still receive congressional approval this—and the pending impeachment proceedings against President Trump could actually help.

At least that’s the feeling of Moises Kalach, vice president of denim mill Kaltex and leader of the Mexican Coalition for USMCA, who spoke Thursday at the U.S. Fashion Industry Association conference in New York.

“We feel there is a good possibility of this passing this year,” said Kalach, who has been lobbying U.S. politicians in both parties. “I think the impeachment inquiry does not seem to impact negotiations and may provide [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi political space to move USMCA forward. It could give the Democrats a way to show they can be proactive with the business community.”

He said by the coalition’s count, the Democrats have the votes to secure passage in the House and that Republican control of the Senate would ensure the agreement getting through.

Bob Kirke, executive director of the Canadian Apparel Federation, said, “Canada will not do anything until the U.S. figures out where things are. We can [sign the USMCA] very quickly. Some Democrats from the House committee were in Ottawa yesterday.”

Kalach noted that Mexican industry, including textiles and apparel, went into the negotiations knowing that it couldn’t survive without either USMCA passing or the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) staying in place. That’s because the U.S. is Mexico’s top trading partner and it relies on the duty-free status afforded it under both pacts.

“For us, NAFTA was more than commerce,” Kalach said. “It was the whole handrail of the economy.”

He noted that all sides have agreed on textile stipulations, but some key areas remain of concern to Pelosi and Democrats in Congress, including Mexican labor provisions involving compliance and unionization, data protection, the environment and enforcement.

Kalach said there’s a small window this month and next to get USMCA passed, but warned that if it doesn’t clear the final hurdle, bringing it up in 2020 as the presidential election heats up could be difficult.