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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

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
23 mins ago - Health

New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

New research is bolstering the case for delaying second doses of coronavirus vaccines.

Why it matters: Most vulnerable Americans remain unvaccinated heading into March, when experts predict the more infectious virus variant first found in the U.K. could become dominant in the U.S.

24 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Rail's big moment is arriving

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Passenger rail could be the big winner if Congress moves ahead with President Biden's ambitious infrastructure plan.

Why it matters: There's long been bipartisan support for rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure, but under Biden, the focus has shifted to sustainable projects that fulfill both his climate and equity goals, such as rail transit.

Scoop: Schumer wants to freeze stimulus changes

Sen. Chuck Schumer. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is privately saying he can pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus package but wants to avoid any last-minute changes jeopardizing its trajectory, three sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: While the president hoped to enlist Republican support for the measure, Schumer has worked to ensure he has a solid 50 votes to muscle it through if necessary. A parliamentary ruling Thursday improved his chances.

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