Dec 15, 2019

Top negotiator accuses U.S. of blindsiding Mexico with USMCA labor provision

Jesús Seade. Photo: Pedro Gonzalez Castillo/Getty Images

A top Mexican trade negotiator traveled to Washington on Sunday to push back against U.S. officials for allegedly blindsiding Mexico with a provision to designate labor monitors as part of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: House Democrats came out in support of the USMCA last week after successfully negotiating a mechanism to ensure the enforcement of labor standards in Mexico, which had been a sticking point during trade talks. Mexico had claimed during negotiations that foreign labor inspectors would violate its sovereignty, and the three countries had instead settled on three-person panels to resolve labor disputes.

  • Legislation scheduled to be voted on in the House next week, however, includes a provision to appoint up to five attachés to monitor Mexico's labor conditions.
  • Jesús Seade, Mexico's undersecretary for North America in the Foreign Ministry, told reporters Saturday that the plan was “never mentioned to Mexico — never. And, of course, we don’t agree."

Between the lines: Mexico and the U.S. depend on one another for trade. Mexico's government has been strongly in favor of revamping NAFTA, with the Mexican Senate overwhelmingly voting in favor of the new deal Thursday.

  • The labor issue has since erupted into a political controversy, however, with some Mexican officials now questioning what they had signed up to.
  • Critics accused Seade of being careless during final negotiations with the U.S., according to the Post.

Go deeper: Business groups express growing dissatisfaction with USMCA compromise

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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.

Go deeperArrowDec 16, 2019

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

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