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Vice President Mike Pence visits southern New Mexico, keeps up push for trade deal

Vice President Mike Pence stepped up pressure on Congress to support the Trump administration’s new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, taking his pitch on Wednesday to voters in a congressional swing district in southern New Mexico.

Pence’s office said in a statement that he will talk about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement while visiting an oil and natural gas production company in the Permian basin that straddles New Mexico and Texas. Democrats last year narrowly flipped the area’s sprawling congressional district that borders Mexico and traverses thriving oil fields and military bases.

Trump hails the trilateral trade agreement — signed in late November of 2018 after tough negotiations — as a victory for U.S. manufacturing, with duty-free rewards for cars that include more North American components and higher wage requirements in Mexico.

But critical enabling legislation requires approval from the House and Senate, including House-majority Democrats who want greater concessions on labor and environmental provisions, with the window for compromise narrowing in the run-up to 2020 election.

Pence’s intermittent campaign for the trade pact also took him to York, Pennsylvania, where in June he implored an audience of engineers, tradespeople and salespeople to push Congress to approve the pact this summer.

William Reinsch, a senior adviser on international business with the Center for Stategic and International Studies, said Pence appears to be on pragmatic path in rallying local business and community leaders to the trade-pact cause — while impressionable members Congress are at home on recess.

“The issue is the House and the issue is the Democrats,” Reinsch said. “If Pence is smart his is going to areas where the Democratic congressmen are undecided.”

The vice president’s itinerary in New Mexico traverses a politically conservative stronghold in the south of the state — within a congressional district that Democrats flipped in the 2018 election as former GOP Rep. Steve Pearce gave up his seat to run unsuccessfully for governor.

A schedule speech by Pence at Elite Well Services in Artesia was arranged by the conservative nonprofit America First Policies that supports the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The vice president campaigned nearby in Roswell in October 2018 for Pearce and Republican congressional candidate Yvette Herrell, who also went down to defeat.

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, the victorious Democrat who has cut a centrist profile in border security discussions and a vote against a $15 federal minimum wage, already has stockpiled roughly $1 million in campaign cash to defend her seat in 2020 for a district that borders Mexico.

Her office did not immediately respond to questions about her stance on the trade agreement or possible amendments.

Trump has tried to sell the trade deal as a replacement for the 25-year-old North America Free Trade Agreement he railed about as a presidential candidate. The new trade deal is a modernized version of the pact, with long-sought updates for the new digital economy and some labor protections.

Pence’s visit provides an additional forum for the administration’s efforts to ease federal environmental regulations and boost employment prospects in a critical location for U.S. oil and exploration.

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