Dec 16, 2019

Robert Lighthizer tells Mexico: USMCA "attachés" are not "labor inspectors"

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Photo: Rodrigo Arangua/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a letter to a top Mexican trade negotiator Monday that the full-time diplomats, or attachés, designated to uphold labor standards in the version of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) sent to Congress are not "labor inspectors."

Why it matters: Mexico’s Undersecretary for North America Jesús Seade flew to Washington on Sunday to confront U.S. officials over the inclusion of language that would appoint attachés to implement labor reform in Mexico, accusing the Trump administration of blindsiding them. The intervention has thrown a wrench in the House's tentative plan to vote on the North American trade deal on Thursday.

What they're saying:

"The Administration included language in the USMCA implementing legislation authorizing up to five attachés from the Department of Labor to work with their Mexican counterparts, workers, and civil society groups on implementation of the Mexican labor reform, including by providing technical assistance and disbursing capacity building funds, and provide assistance to the new U.S. government interagency labor committee.  These personnel will not be “labor inspectors” and will abide by all relevant Mexican laws."
— Robert Lighthizer in a statement

Go deeper: Mexicans throw 11th hour curveball at Trump's biggest trade deal

Go deeper

Mexicans throw 11th hour curveball at Trump's biggest trade deal

Nancy Pelosi and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal during a news conference on the USMCA trade agreement, Dec.10. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Democrats have a "tentative plan" to vote Thursday on the trade deal President Trump negotiated with Mexico and Canada to replace NAFTA, per a senior House Democratic aide, but Mexican officials are complicating those plans.

Driving the news: "Mexico's top trade negotiator plans to return to Washington ... to express his outrage over language in the U.S. bill to implement the new North American trade agreement," Politico's Sabrina Rodriguez reports.

Go deeperArrowDec 16, 2019

House passes USMCA free trade deal

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The House voted 385-41 Thursday to pass a revised version of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a trade pact President Trump negotiated to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Why it matters: Completing the trade deal has been one of President Trump's biggest policy goals in 2019. House Democrats' decision to back it earlier this month highlights how they want something concrete to bring home to their constituents ahead of the new year as well, even after voting to impeach the president on Wednesday night.

Go deeperArrowDec 19, 2019

Sanders blasts USMCA free trade deal for not mentioning climate change

Sen. Bernie Sanders said at the Democratic debate on Thursday night that the USMCA free trade deal that President Trump negotiated is a "modest improvement" over NAFTA, but that he will not vote for it because it will not stop outsourcing to Mexico and does not mention climate change.

Why it matters: The House overwhelmingly passed the USMCA on Thursday after Democrats secured certain labor provisions. Passing the deal is one of Trump's top policy goals of 2019 and is tailor-made for protectionist Democrats, but Sanders — who has long opposed free trade agreements — still plans to vote against it when it reaches the Senate.

Keep ReadingArrowDec 20, 2019