EDITOR'S NOTE: A version of this editorial ran in the Oct. 21, 2019 print edition of Automotive News, which is a sister publication to Automotive News Canada.
Bipartisan cooperation on, well, pretty much anything, is anathema in Washington these days. So let's hope that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats are genuinely making progress toward ratifying President Donald Trump's NAFTA replacement.
Stakeholders in the auto industry have been left twisting in the wind while the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement has been trapped in legislative limbo since the three partner nations agreed to the trade deal in November. Now, the calls for getting the deal ratified are growing louder.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, while promising to implement a labor law to satisfy a major sticking point for Democrats, last week pushed for ratification and asked that it not be "contaminated" by the U.S. election cycle, according to a Reuters report. And recently, the National Automobile Dealers Association's 2019 chairman, Charlie Gilchrist, pointed to vehicle-affordabilty challenges as a reason for supporting USMCA.
Of course, nobody expected the House to rubber-stamp the deal. Pelosi and other Democrats made their labor and environmental concerns known right away. The speaker said "progress" has been made.
It doesn't help that relations between her and the president have deteriorated recently. She has been disciplined and long restrained other Democrats' desire to pursue impeachment. But her decision to proceed with a formal impeachment inquiry regarding his dealings with Ukraine — and last week's blowup over Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria — make it harder to work together.
But policy should prevail over politics. Yes, the passage of USMCA would be a win for Trump, fulfilling a 2016 campaign promise. But it would also be a victory for Pelosi as she shares credit with her political adversary for bringing this saga to an end and letting the North American auto industry and others breathe a sigh of relief.
This is all assuming Canada — which has yet to ratify USMCA — gets on board. Canadian politicians have been saying they are waiting to follow a U.S. lead before signing off on the deal.
There will be plenty of time for politics over the coming 54 weeks. Right now — before we get any further into the fraught 2020 election season — it's time to put the matter to a vote in the House and see if it can pass.