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US House Democrat Free Trade Working Group Meets with AMLO


Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (fourth from left), with, from left to right, U.S. Congressmen Dan Kildee, Bill Pascrell, Richard Neal, Jimmy Panetta and Jimmy Gómez. Photo: U.S. House of Representatives

By RICARDO CASTILLO    

It’d seem that at the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, Thanksgiving (Nov. 28) is the make-or-break deadline for approving what is called NAFTA 2.0, namely, the now-renegotiated United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal and four other representatives – Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) – visited the National Palace in Mexico City, mainly to listen to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) views.

Their goal was to assess the Mexican government’s commitment to following through on promised reforms and implementation of legal, institutional and cultural changes in accordance with Mexico’s laws and the renegotiated agreement’s requirements.

Their goal was to assess the Mexican government’s commitment to following through on promised reforms and implementation of legal, institutional and cultural changes in accordance with Mexico’s laws and the renegotiated agreement’s requirements.

The Democratic congressional delegation also met with Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, Labor Secretary Luisa María Alcalde and Finance Secretary Arturo Herrera to examine the López Obrador administration’s proposed budget and the funding allocated to implementing the country’s labor reform law.

AMLO said one of his primary goals was to see the UMSCA passed on the grounds that NAFTA 1.0 was greatly beneficial to the nation’s trade, even if it was notso to the working class, whose wage differentials with the United States and Canada continue to be abysmal.

“I will send a letter to the United States legislator, Ms. (Nancy) Pelosi,” AMLO told the visiting legislators. “I will send a letter stating our position, asking for her collaboration and support for the U.S. House of Representatives’ approval of the treaty,”

On Sept. 26, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that there had been movements forward in the trade agreement and asked fellow Democrats to pay a visit to AMLO to clear up some of the doubts they had voiced.

“Our meeting with President López Obrador shed further light on the Mexican government’s desire and intentions to carry out its labor justice reform, but the United States needs to see those assurances put into action,” said Neal. “I appreciate today’s positive engagement and am eager to see Mexico demonstrate its commitment to implementing the changes necessary to realize its own vision for reform and meet the demanding labor and enforcement standards that will be required by the renegotiated NAFTA.”

During their two-day visit, the U.S. congressmen also took time to speak to workers and labor leaders so as to feel out the ambiance over newly negotiated labor laws under the USMCA, which will only mean an upgrade in wages in Mexico, famous for its low salaries.

During their two-day visit, the U.S. congressmen also took time to speak to workers and labor leaders so as to feel out the ambiance over newly negotiated labor laws under the USMCA, which will only mean an upgrade in wages in Mexico, famous for its low salaries.

The Democrat group did not make any commitments regarding a voting deadline, but it certainly got the message across that it would be best for the three member nations to get it approved before the end of this year.

This message promptly got to U.S. labor leader Richard Trumka, who met with AMLO a month ago and who voiced his opinion on Mexico’s incompetence to comply with the labor measures. Trumka said that a prompt vote might be a negative one.

“If there was a vote on the new NAFTA before Thanksgiving, the agreement would be defeated,” he warned. “A fast action on it would be a colossal mistake.”

A side comment on the AFL-CIO stance is that the U.S. labor organization was also opposed to NAFTA back in November 1993, when the accord was negotiated under Presidents George Bush, Sr, and Carlos Salinas de Gortari. That treaty got full congressional approval. Curiously enough, the original NAFTA was approved just before Thanksgiving.

Back then, and now, the Teamsters’ Union did not want the agreement and in the now 25-year old NAFTA, the original chapter on transportation never went into effect. Again, how valid is the opinion of labor leaders remains to be seen on a House of Representatives floor vote. The USMCA has the approval of U.S. President Donald Trump and surely would easily be approved by the Senate by a majority count.

Back then also, election winner Bill Clinton had many concerns about NAFTA, but he met on Jan. 7, 1994 as president-elect with Salinas in Austin, Texas, where he asked how he could “help” with the then-one-week-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Salinas responded: “We want trade, not aid.”

The visiting Democratic Working Group of NAFTA 2.0 said that they continue to work “productively” with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his staff in order to get the renegotiated agreement resolved on labor, health and environmental issues and “get it right.”

Just how convinced was the visiting delegation that the AMLO administration will comply with the new labor, health and environmental regulations was not stated. But, surely, Foreign Relations Secretary Ebrard has been lobbying in Washington in hopes of speeding up the approval process.

So, Thanksgiving is the tentative deadline date once again, and, as former NAFTA negotiator and economist Kenneth Smith put it (as quoted in the financial daily El Financiero: “The worst scenario would be to have the UMSCA in limbo next year.”

 

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Categories: International Relations, Mexico, Mexico-U.S. relations, Opinion, PoliticsTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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