Mexico is withdrawing its objection to a labor provision in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that threatened to derail the USMCA approval process, which is expected to take a major step forward this week in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Jesús Seade, Mexico’s chief North American negotiator, told reporters Monday that Mexico is now satisfied with new promises from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that U.S. officials in Mexico would not be conducting inspections at factories to evaluate the improvement of labor standards, actions that Mexico would see as violating its sovereignty.
“These personnel will not be labor inspectors,” Seade said after a rushed meeting Monday morning with Lighthizer at USTR headquarters in Washington. “Their business is cooperation and assistance. I contacted authorities in Mexico and they are satisfied.”
Mexico’s Senate approved a version of USMCA last week that was altered after House Democrats in the U.S. raised concerns that enforcement measures were not strong enough to ensure that Mexico’s new labor standards were being implemented. But over the weekend Seade announced fresh objections to one of the new USMCA provisions that would install five U.S. attachés in Mexico. Their purpose, Seade said over the weekend before flying to the U.S. to confront Lighthizer, appeared to be to inspect Mexican factories.
“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," Lighthizer said in a declaration for Seade and Mexico after the morning meeting. “These personnel will not be ‘labor inspectors’ and will abide by all relevant Mexican laws.”
That fully placated Mexican concerns, Seade said.
It appears the last-minute uproar will not impact progress in the U.S. Congress to ratify the pact. The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to take up the USMCA implementing language Tuesday, vote on it and then send it for a floor vote, where it is expected to be approved this week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley have already said the Senate will not take up the pact until next year, after the holiday recess.
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