Mexican officials met with several House Democrats as their congress looks to OK labor reform legislation in line with provisions of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Mexican officials last week made progress toward convincing House Democrats that recently submitted Mexican legislation will drive advancements in Mexico’s labor policies, Mexican Under Secretary for North America Jesus Seade said Thursday.
Mexican officials, including Seade (pictured above) and Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Martha Barcena, on Thursday morning met with a group of centrist House Democrats, the New Democrat Coalition, he said during a press conference.
Part of an ongoing push for U.S. ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the meeting was “full of questions and good answers,” Seade said.
It will be easier to make further progress with House Democrats after the Mexican Congress approves labor reform legislation, expected this month, Seade said.
USMCA requires all member governments to maintain labor laws protecting workers’ freedom of association, effective recognition of collective bargaining rights and elimination of employment and occupation discrimination, among other protections.
A USMCA annex also outlines specific obligations for each party regarding worker representation in collective bargaining.
The Mexican legislation would subject the fate of all protection contracts—company-sponsored collective bargaining agreements—to worker votes every four years at a minimum, Seade noted.
As U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs continue to be applied to imports from Mexico, Mexican officials “would never dream” of ratifying the USMCA until the issue is resolved, Seade said.
U.S. congressional Democrats have expressed concern about some aspects of the USMCA, such as enforceability of labor provisions, and language that would ensure 10 years of data exclusivity for biologics developed in North America, which is two more years than the period provided in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the last trade agreement the U.S. negotiated before President Donald Trump withdrew in January 2017.
The biologics exclusivity period is five more years than the period required by Mexican law, two more years than the period required by Canadian law and two fewer years than the period currently required in U.S. law.
“When we joined the negotiation, which was the last few months after a year and a half of negotiation, the instructions that I got from President [Andres Manuel] Lopez Obrador was don’t reopen issues that are already closed, unless it’s an absolute disaster,” Seade said. “But otherwise, what we want to do is to support the process, to dispel these notions that the new government is anti-trade.”
He continued, “We didn’t reopen that one,” adding the provision, nonetheless “is not exactly something we would have chosen.”
Reopening USMCA to change the biologics provision at this point would mean going down “a very slippery slope,” Seade said.
Trump told reporters Thursday that if Congress doesn’t pass USMCA, “it will be purely political.”
He tweeted on Friday that Mexico is “meaningfully apprehending illegals” at its southern border, but if it stops apprehending illegal immigrants, the U.S. will be “forced” to impose 25 percent tariffs on “all cars made in Mexico,” which will “supersede” USMCA language.
Seade said he is not concerned that Trump might decide to ignore USMCA language related to exempting Mexico from auto tariffs.
“What has been agreed on the car industry is firm, is not under threat and we’re sticking to that,” Seade said.
Leila Afas, director of international public policy for Toyota North America on Thursday said her company doesn’t want to see U.S. trading partners like Canada and Mexico “punched” any further, after both have retaliated against U.S. Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum.
“We cannot go down this road,” Afas said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We need to take the threat of auto tariffs just completely off the table.”