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Group pushing NAFTA 2.0 launches first TV ads in effort to win Dem support

The lobbying effort behind President Donald Trump’s renegotiated North America trade agreement is launching a new campaign this week, seeking to build support among House Democrats who hold considerable sway over the deal’s future.

A coalition of businesses and trade associations laid out plans Monday to spend “seven figures” on TV and digital ads pitching the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement as a win for American labor — a message aimed at selling Trump’s deal to the left, which remains skeptical about the deal’s methods for enforcing its labor and environmental standards.

“The U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement will level the playing field for our workers, consumers, and farmers with more free markets, fairer trade, and robust economic growth,” says the ad from the Pass USMCA Coalition, which formed last month to push for the deal on Capitol Hill. “By increasing exports, raising wages, and accelerating innovation, it will propel U.S. trade into the 21st century.”

The ad is the first paid media effort from a coalition of deep-pocketed business groups that has prioritized pushing for congressional approval for the USMCA.

The spot will run for three weeks on TV stations from southern Virginia up to northern Maryland, an area rich with the type of business-friendly Democrats proponents of the deal hope to court.

They’re also working to make inroads with new Texas Democrats, who partnered with Republicans to pass the first iteration of the agreement more than two decades ago.

Trump campaigned on a promise to make the trade deal with Canada and Mexico better for American labor, which likes much of the new deal and was engaged in the negotiation process.

But some of USMCA’s biggest critics are Democrats’ new liberal members of Congress, who have played an outsized role in policy disputes since their party took over control of the House at the beginning of the year.

“While there’s much to like in the text of NAFTA 2.0, without mechanisms to enforce the environmental and labor standards, it’s not at all adequate,” said Bob Cash, director of the Texas Fair Trade Coalition, a labor group that doesn’t want the new deal ratified without major changes.

Trump reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico on USMCA in October, when Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. That deal must now be approved by both the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House.

If Congress doesn’t approve the agreement, Trump has threatened to pull out of NAFTA all together, a move business groups say would be catastrophic. Texas businesses started their own coalition to strategize ways to avoid such a scenario shortly after Trump was elected.

Pass USMCA Coalition recently brought on former New York Rep. Joe Crowley, who served in House Democratic leadership, to spearhead Democratic outreach.

The group’s ad urges constituents to call their lawmakers and urge them to approve USMCA swiftly, “because a win for workers is a win for America.”

Andrea Drusch is the Washington Correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She is a Corinth, Texas, native and graduate of the Bob Schieffer School of Journalism at Texas Christian University. She returns home frequently to visit family, get her fix of Fuzzy’s Tacos and cheer on the Horned Frogs.