U.S. House Democratic leader says NAFTA should remain trilateral

FILE PHOTO: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a press conference in Washington, U.S., on June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Toya Sarno Jordan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday warned the Trump administration that the NAFTA trade agreement should be maintained as a trilateral pact between the United States, Mexico and Canada and not just a U.S.-Mexico arrangement.

Whatever deal ultimately is reached in negotiations will be reviewed by the next Congress that convenes in January. Pelosi could be the speaker of the House if Democrats win this November’s congressional midterm elections.

The House speaker sets the legislative agenda and often has the political muscle to assure passage or defeat of initiatives.

“I think it should be trilateral,” Pelosi told reporters, adding that she did not think it would be “in the interest of this hemisphere” to turn the North American Free Trade Agreement into a bilateral deal.

A revamped trade agreement with Mexico has been negotiated and U.S. President Donald Trump has warned Ottawa that he is prepared to leave Canada out of the arrangement if it fails to accept terms more favorable to the United States.

Speaking at a news conference that mainly centered on hurricane devastation wreaked in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands last year, Pelosi said she was seeking more details on the results of the U.S.-Mexico negotiations.

She said that earlier on Friday she had instructed aides to set up briefings for rank-and-file lawmakers.

“Any arrangement of that kind, of that length of being in effect should be subjected to some scrutiny I think,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi added that Democrats want to see more progress toward raising U.S. wages and cautioned: “You don’t lift wages in the United States by suppressing them other places. So we’re concerned about the ability of Mexican workers to organize and improve their economic status as well.”

Reporting By Richard Cowan, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien