WASHINGTON – Former Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen has been named honorary co-chair of an alliance trying to get the Senate and House to pass a new U.S. trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

President Donald Trump has proposed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, better known as NAFTA.

In an interview with the Star Tribune, Paulsen said he was "excited" to join the Pass USMCA Coalition, a collection of trade groups and businesses urging quick approval of the deal.

Paulsen said he hopes Congress will act by the end of the year, and the sooner, the better.

He predicted a trade deal will pass, but with a narrow margin because "trade deals are always close votes."

"Members from both sides know the importance of trade with Mexico and Canada," said Paulsen, who will work closely with Canadian officials. "That should convince leadership [in the Senate and House] to keep to a timeline."

The U.S. has not withdrawn from NAFTA, so the open-trade principles of that agreement remain in effect. Paulsen believes a newly struck agreement on digital trade that is included in USMCA, but not NAFTA, will provide leverage for passage.

"The internet has emerged as a forum for economics," he said.

USMCA will help make online sales easier and allow data to flow across borders.

Other selling points include labor and environmental standards that Paulsen believes will attract Democrats' support.

The USMCA faces opposition in the Democratic-controlled House. As long as it remains in limbo, certain financial incentives negotiated into the agreement cannot take affect.

During his time in the House of Representatives Paulsen was a staunch defender of free trade and multination trade deals. He also helped lead a congressional trade caucus. Paulsen lost a bid for re-election last fall to Dean Phillips, a Democrat.