Pence, the Trump administration’s point person for getting the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) approved by Congress, made the remark at the start of a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa.
The deal, which was signed late last year, is meant to replace the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It has yet to be ratified by any of the three countries.
Canada formally began the process on Wednesday and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday announced his government’s intention to send the treaty to Mexico’s Congress for ratification.
“We have a historic opportunity to strengthen the economic ties between our two nations with the passage of the USMCA,” Pence told reporters after sitting down beside Trudeau.
“I want to assure you that we’re making energetic efforts to move approval through the Congress of the United States this summer,” he said.
Pence’s trip is the first official visit to Canada by a senior member of the Trump administration since President Donald Trump stormed out of a G7 summit hosted by Trudeau last year and accused the prime minister of being “dishonest and weak.”
The U.S. vice president has been traveling through American states dependent on trade with Canada and Mexico to make the case for the deal, which faces a tricky path ahead of presidential and congressional elections next year.
Last week, Trump fought with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will control the timing of any initial vote on the trade deal, over her party’s investigations of his administration. He also said Pelosi does not understand the agreement.
Some lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives have said the deal needs stronger enforcement provisions for new labor and environmental standards.