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

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