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Top Mexican Official Warns Democrats Mexico Will Not Accept More Labor Enforcement in USMCA Trade Pact - Washington Report

A top Mexican official delivered an ultimatum to Democrats late last week, saying Mexico will not accept a stronger labor enforcement mechanism in the new North American trade pact and will not support reopening the deal to further negotiations.

“We don’t see what more is necessary or possible,” Jesus Seade, Mexico’s undersecretary for North America, told POLITCO in an interview last Friday, days after Mexican lawmakers passed a landmark labor reform law required by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“The labor provisions in the agreement are very far-reaching.  It’s a complete A-through-Z of good labor practices.”  There is nothing else you may want,” Seade added.

Seade’s comments come as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats have intensified calls for the Trump administration to make changes in the text of the USMCA.

Pelosi has specifically said enforcement of the agreement is the “overreaching” issue that must be dealt with as part of the deal, not through a side letter or subsequent legislation, before Democrats will consider the NAFTA replacement.  Democrats want stronger labor provisions, but also changes to the deal’s environment and prescription drug provisions.

Seade, who is the leading voice on U.S.-Mexico trade issues in the administration of new Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, directly shut down a proposal floated by Senate Finance ranking member Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that would require Mexico to conduct inspections of factories accused of poor working conditions.  “Not only is Mexico against that proposal, but also, we don’t envision at all any reopening of the agreement,” Seade said.

Mexican Ambassador to the United States Marth Barcena said recently that Mexico would be open to a labor enforcement tool as long as inspections of factories would also take place in the United States.

While ratification of the deal is the top legislative priority for the Trump administration this year, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said the administration will not submit a bill to implement the pact until House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asks for it.   Pelosi has said she wants to see how Mexico implements the new law, which overhauls the country’s labor structure.

Seade has emphasized that Mexico will fully enforce the labor reforms because it is a major domestic priority for Lopez Obrado, and not because the U.S. is forcing the Mexican government to do so.  Seade also pointed out that long-term concerns about labor enforcement in Mexico can be addressed when it comes time to review USMCA.  The new pact includes a sunset review clause, which requires that the three countries review the agreement every six years after it enters into force.