U.S. and Mexico Work Out Differences in USMCA

The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. and Mexico appear to have worked out the labor controversy that threatened to derail the planned congressional vote in the U.S. on the USMCA trade agreement. Mexican Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Jesus Seade had expressed his government’s objections to the language in the agreement related to labor inspectors. The agreement called for up to five additional U.S. Labor Department officials who were called ‘attaches’ to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and other consulates. The trade pact itself called for resolving labor disputes with three member panels that were thought to open the door to inspections.

Meetings were held in Washington between Mr. Seade and U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer on Monday, resulting in a clarification letter. “These personnel will not be labor inspectors and will abide by all relevant Mexican laws,” Mr. Lighthizer said. According to the WSJ, Mr. Lighthizer explained the role of the attaches. They “would work with their Mexican counterparts, workers and civil society groups on implementation of the Mexican labor reform, including by providing technical assistance and disursing capacity building funds, and provide assistance to the new U.S. government interagency labor committee.”

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that there is already a labor attache at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico and that that person is not authorized to make site visits. “Our rules don’t allow and will never allow it,” Ebrard said. “No country can designate attaches in Mexico unless the foreign relations ministry accept or authorizes them.”

The AFL-CIO endorsed this agreement because it empowers Washington to enforce the pact’s new labor rules which are significantly stronger than those in NAFTA.