Canada sees 'tough challenge' getting trade deal ratified by U.S.

FILE PHOTO: Chrystia Freeland poses with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next to Gov. Gen. Julie Payette after being sworn-in as Deputy Prime Minister during the presentation of Trudeau's new cabinet, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Blair Gable

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Thursday said it would be a “tough challenge” to get a new three-nation continental trade agreement ratified by the United States.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement was signed in November 2018 but formal U.S. approval has been held up by Democratic lawmakers pressing the Trump administration for changes, including steps on drug protections.

Freeland said she was working closely with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexico’s deputy foreign minister in a bid to find a solution.

“It’s a tough challenge the three NAFTA countries face,” Freeland told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, using the acronym of the trade pact that last year’s agreement is meant to replace.

House Democrats have voiced concerns over the enforcement of labor and environmental provisions. Late last month, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a version of the deal she could back was within range.

“I think he (Lighthizer) is doing a terrific job but it’s difficult ... the Americans right now face the challenge of looking for common ground between Speaker Pelosi and the administration of President Trump. And that is a challenge and we should be candid about that,” said Freeland.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown