Trump calls for taking up trade pact before infrastructure

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump told Democratic leaders Tuesday that he believes Congress should first pass a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico before taking up a bill to boost the nation’s infrastructure.

The president made his request in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer before a White House meeting Wednesday. The move fits with what many Republicans in Congress have been urging but clashes with the priorities of many Democratic lawmakers who still have concerns with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

The potential clash in priorities is just one of the flash points that could derail action by Congress. Lawmakers and Trump administration officials have also been reticent to say how they would pay for an infrastructure bill, creating doubts about the prospects of reaching an agreement before the 2020 elections.

Trump said the trade agreement would boost employment growth and create millions of high-wage jobs.

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“Once Congress has passed USMCA, we should turn our attention to a bipartisan infrastructure package,” Trump said.

The Democratic leaders and Trump are aiming for a $2 trillion bill to address roads, bridges and other priorities.

Trump said he remains committed to passing a bill, but he wants Pelosi and Schumer to spell out their priorities and how much money they would provide to each.

“Your caucus has expressed a wide-range of priorities, and it is unclear which ones have your support,” Trump said.

Trump complained that he had hoped to work out the priorities following a meeting in late April at the White House “but you cancelled a scheduled meeting of our teams, preventing them from advancing our discussions. Nevertheless, I remain committed to passing an infrastructure bill.”

He said there is no doubt Americans “want us to rebuild our infrastructure” and it’s “now time for us to follow the wishes of the American people and work together to pass a big and bold infrastructure bill.”

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