House Ways and Means Committee Democrats say passage of labor law reform legislation by the Mexican congress is needed before they support the agreement.
Mexico’s passage of labor reform legislation is a necessary first step in securing House Ways and Means Committee Democrats’ support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent Thursday to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Last week, such legislation was sent to Mexico’s congress for consideration.
Further, Ways and Means Democrats are concerned the state-to-state dispute settlement mechanism applicable to the USMCA’s labor obligations is designed to be “easily frustrated” and will be ineffective, the letter says.
USMCA negotiations didn’t address a “major flaw” in the panel selection process for state-to-state dispute settlement, wherein a party can stop formation of a panel after the expiration of NAFTA parties’ rosters of potential panelists, but U.S. interest in ensuring USMCA labor and environment obligations are enforceable should incentivize USMCA parties to maintain up-to-date rosters, attorneys Jesse Goldman, Matthew Kronby and Milos Barutciski of Borden Ladner Gervais, a Canadian law firm, wrote on Lexology in November.
Committee Democrats acknowledged that USMCA’s updated labor language reflects an agreement 12 years ago between then-President George W. Bush and congressional Democrats to incorporate strong, internationally recognized labor standards in U.S. trade agreements.
“Nevertheless, reflecting on the history of our concerns with NAFTA, we question whether there is reason to believe that the new agreement will lead to meaningful change and real improvements for labor standards in Mexico,” the committee Democrats wrote.
They continued, “Our question also stems from the fact that Congressional Democrats concerned whether trade agreement labor provisions will be meaningful have always been required to take a leap of faith: Vote first and hope to see changes later. This time needs to be different.”
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“We look forward to engaging with you on addressing our concerns,” the lawmakers wrote. “Our interest is in replacing NAFTA with an agreement that remedies NAFTA’s flaws by, among other things, providing tools to ensure that workers’ rights will be effectively protected and promoted throughout North America.”
Brian Bradley will be among the speakers in an American Shipper webinar sponsored by Amber Road titled “USMA: What’s In It, How It Will Affect U.S. Manufacturing, and What’s Next” at 2 p.m. April 25.