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U.S., Mexico resolve differences in trade talks

By Sabrina Rodriguez and Megan Cassella

The U.S. and Mexico have resolved the major sticking points in negotiations to make changes to the new North American trade pact, clearing the way for a deal to be announced in the coming days, three people close to the talks told POLITICO.

The two sides are still working out the final details and working to get House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on board, the people said.

“They worked out the major points, are working out some details right now and checking with all sides, including Pelosi, to see if there’s an agreement or if they need to adjust it a bit more,” one of the people said.

Mexican Undersecretary for North America Jesús Seade returned to the U.S. trade office late Saturday morning to resume talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer after they met until late Friday night. The two officials have met throughout this week to discuss the remaining issues.

Seade emerged after a roughly hourlong meeting telling reporters he was heading back to Mexico but would likely return on Monday.

"We're getting close," he said. "I'm confident."

One person said Seade probably spent early Saturday morning consulting with Mexican government and business leaders to ensure they all approved of the changes to the deal.

“They are very very very close, for real now,” the person added.

But Pelosi could ask for more tweaks to what Lighthizer and Seade have negotiated, the person said.

One open question is whether Lighthizer will continue to push Mexico for further changes if Democrats remain unsatisfied, or whether he will tell lawmakers this is the best he can do.

Taking the latter approach would put the ball back in Pelosi’s court, one of the people said. “Then it will be up to labor to say if this is enough for enforcement,” the person said.

Lighthizer and Seade have been in formal talks for the past two weeks as both sides look to land on a deal that would allow Pelosi to put the deal up for a vote. Pelosi has repeatedly emphasized that she will not call it up until the deal has strong labor enforcement written into it.

House Democrats and Lighthizer negotiated changes to address Democrats’ concerns surrounding the pact’s provisions on enforcement, labor and environmental standards, and drug pricing.

In addition, earlier this week, Pelosi added to her demands that the Trump administration strip language from the USMCA that acts as a legal liability shield for the tech industry.

The Trump administration has also again raised a demand to tighten the definition of what qualifies as North American steel and aluminum, a request that angered Mexican industry. And while it held up talks for a day, Seade on Friday afternoon remained confident that “everything can be resolved.”

Ben White contributed to this report.