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US Trade Chief Courts Auto Union to Back North American Trade Pact

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his staff will head to Michigan next week to meet with United Auto Workers union leaders in an effort to win labor backing for a new North American free trade deal, the union said on Friday.

Lighthizer is set to meet on Tuesday with union officials in Dearborn to answer questions about the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), UAW officials said.

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A USTR spokesman did not immediately respond on Friday to Reuters’ queries about the planned meeting.

Lighthizer said at a congressional hearing on Wednesday that the USMCA is “clearly better than” the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that preceded it.

Business leaders and Democrats say gaining labor approval will be critical to winning its final approval in Washington.

If Congress does not pass USMCA, then the United States has “no credibility at all” with China or “on any deals with your other trading partners,” Lighthizer said at the hearing.

The USMCA deal would boost requirements for North American content for vehicles and requires that 40 percent of vehicle value be made in high-wage areas paying $16 an hour, requiring significant automotive production in the United States and Canada.

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