WASHINGTON -- The head of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations labour union on Wednesday warned against speedy passage of the Trump administration's new trade pact with Mexico and Canada, saying he was especially concerned about labor protection measures in Mexico and adding that any vote on the plan before the end of November would lead to its defeat.
"If there was a vote on the new #NAFTA before thanksgiving, the agreement would be defeated. Fast action would be a colossal mistake. #1u," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a tweet.
His concerns include reservations that Mexico might not make necessary changes to ensure labor reforms, or adequately fund enforcement mechanisms, he separately said in an interview with the Washington Post, which first reported his comments.
"If they can’t enforce their own laws, we have a real problem," Trumka told the Post. "No agreement will be able to work."
"If we can get these things fixed, we can get to yes," he added. "If we can’t get them fixed, we can’t get to yes."
His comments echoed concerns from House Democrats, which must pass the deal secured by Republican President Donald Trump. A top Democratic lawmaker, who led a delegation to Mexico, this week said Mexico must do more to implement labor reforms.
Trump, his administration, congressional Republicans and several key business groups have been pressuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take up the measure before the Thanksgiving holiday in late November.
Pelosi, in a letter to House Democrats on Tuesday, said they would "continue our discussion of the USMCA."
A group of House Democrats who visited Mexico City on Tuesday said U.S. approval of the stalled U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement hinges on Mexico’s full implementation of a new labour law.
The five Democratic lawmakers met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador amid intensifying talks with President Donald Trump’s administration on getting congressional approval in the coming weeks for the accord known as USMCA.
“Our meeting with President López Obrador shed further light on the Mexican government’s desire and intentions to carry out its labour justice reform, but the United States needs to see those assurances put into action,” Richard Neal, the Massachusetts representative leading USMCA discussions, said in a statement after talks with
Democrats want to see that proposed cuts to the Mexican labour department’s budget won’t affect factory inspections. They also have raised concerns about court challenges to the law, a process that could take years.
Neal said he is “eager to see Mexico demonstrate its commitment to implementing the changes necessary to realize its own vision for reform and meet the demanding labour and enforcement standards that will be required by the renegotiated NAFTA,” the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Democrats and the White House are moving closer to a deal on USMCA despite the impeachment inquiry into Trump. The two sides are working to improve enforcement of the treaty by using arbitration to resolve disputes, though they haven’t resolved penalties to address violations of new labour requirements.
‘PATH TO YES’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said Democrats want to be on a “path to yes” on USMCA and that the party is able to conduct legislative business regardless of the impeachment investigation. Trump has expressed doubt that Democrats can approve the trade pact during the impeachment focus, but his Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said he hopes it can be done.
Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters his country is “reasonably optimistic” Tuesday’s gathering will help move the U.S. Congress toward approval of USMCA, according to a recording of the conversation sent by his office.
“They were hoping to approve the accord, but didn’t understand well how the labour reform would be implemented in Mexico,” said Ebrard. “Then they had concerns about court injunctions” in Mexico against improvements, he added. He said the Mexican officials gave assurances that they realize the importance of raising wages and improving labour conditions in their country.
Lopez Obrador sent a letter to Pelosi saying he hoped USMCA wouldn’t be postponed for too long, because it’s important for investment in both countries. Last week, Mexican Undersecretary of Foreign Relations Jesus Seade told reporters in Washington that Mexico wants to see a vote by early November so the deal isn’t further delayed by the U.S. election next year.