MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s government on Monday ramped up pressure on Democratic lawmakers to approve a new North American trade deal, urging U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to push it through Congress and rejecting demands for greater oversight of its labor market.
FILE PHOTO: Trucks wait in a long queue for border customs control to cross into the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares/File Photo
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would this week send another letter to Pelosi, a Democrat, pressing for the ratification of the three-nation deal agreed last year known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
“I’m sure that Mrs Pelosi and the lawmakers of the Democratic Party are going to help us,” Lopez Obrador told a regular news conference, saying he believed the U.S. Congress would approve the deal before the end of 2019.
Mexico also wrote to Pelosi last month.
Lopez Obrador said his understanding was that both U.S. President Donald Trump, who had pushed for the deal, and Republican lawmakers agreed the USMCA should be ratified soon.
Still, standing alongside Lopez Obrador, Jesus Seade, deputy foreign minister for North America and the Mexican official in charge of USMCA negotiations, said he was “pessimistic” the accord would be approved by U.S. lawmakers before 2020.
“Far from reaching a deal, in the last two weeks, statements from certain labor sectors have re-emerged, floating ideas that would be totally unacceptable to Mexico,” Seade said.
Mexico, which ratified the USMCA earlier this year, is eager for the agreement to be approved because the country’s exports and foreign direct investment are heavily dependent on having unfettered access to the U.S. marketplace.
U.S. lawmakers, notably Democrats, have held up the process over concerns that lower-cost Mexico will continue to be able to attract investment at the expense of U.S. workers.
Lopez Obrador’s left-leaning government has pledged to improve workers’ pay, and earlier this year pushed through a labor bill that will strengthen the rights of trade unions.
The president, Seade and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard all underlined that Mexico had fulfilled its commitments under the USMCA framework as they urged Congress to pass the deal.
However, Democrats have sought assurances from Mexico that measures to strengthen workers’ rights will be enforced, causing friction with the Lopez Obrador administration.
Among the sticking points have been U.S. attempts to establish dispute panels for labor, Seade said. Mexico’s position is that panels should be allowed across the board, not for specific areas, he noted.
Enforcement remained a bone of contention, Seade said, noting that there were those on the U.S. side seeking to impose “more intrusive” mechanisms to bind Mexico.
“We told them we won’t accept that,” he said.
The USMCA was agreed after a lengthy negotiation to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski