By Anthony Harrup
MEXICO CITY -- Mexico is protesting the call for U.S. labor monitors to be based in Mexico to track the enforcement of its labor laws and ensure compliance with the recently signed trade pact between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, the country's chief trade negotiator said Saturday.
The bill, submitted by the Trump administration Friday to the U.S. Congress for implementation of the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, or USMCA, calls for up to five U.S. labor attachés in Mexico, said Jesús Seade, Mexico's undersecretary for North America and trade negotiator.
Mexico wasn't consulted on the measures, which were part of negotiations between U.S. lawmakers and the Trump administration, "and of course we don't agree," Mr. Seade told a news conference.
He said the matter of attachés isn't included in modifications to the USMCA that were signed by the three governments on Tuesday in Mexico City, and ratified by Mexico's Senate on Thursday.
The question of enforcement mechanisms demanded by U.S. labor unions and some Democrats was a sticking point in negotiations aimed at securing Democratic support for the deal, which was negotiated in 2018 to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mexico accepted the establishment of panels to resolve labor disputes between the sides but rejected the presence of U.S. inspectors to monitor compliance with Mexican labor laws. To comply with provisions of the USMCA, Mexico changed its laws to ensure workers can freely choose their unions and elect labor leaders in secret ballots. Unions also must prove they represent a majority of workers before signing a collective-bargaining contract, ending the practice of "protection contracts" or contracts signed without the agreement of workers.
In a letter to U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer, Mr. Seade said Mexico is concerned that with the bill, the U.S. is seeking to go beyond what's necessary to enforce provisions negotiated in the USMCA.
He said Mexico should have been given details of the proposals during USMCA negotiations.
Mr. Seade said he would travel to Washington on Sunday to discuss Mexico's position with Mr. Lighthizer and U.S. legislators.
He said in any case, U.S. attachés in Mexico wouldn't be allowed under Mexican law to conduct inspections.
A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) declined to comment.
The USTR didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, and White House officials couldn't be reached for comment.
In a release outlining changes to the USMCA that Democrats negotiated with the Trump administration, Mrs. Pelosi's office said earlier this week they included labor attachés based in Mexico and an interagency committee that would monitor Mexico's labor reforms. They aren't mentioned in the modifications to the USMCA that were signed on Tuesday.
Mr. Seade said in his letter to the USTR that Mexico would evaluate "not only the measures proposed...but also the establishment of reciprocal mechanisms in defense of the interests of our country."
--Natalie Andrews in Washington contributed to this article.
Write to Anthony Harrup at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 14, 2019 19:34 ET (00:34 GMT)
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