Trump admin, Mexico resolve last minute labor inspection issue in USMCA deal

The Trump administration said they have worked out a last-minute issue with Mexico in President Donald Trump’s re-worked NAFTA deal, the Washington Examiner reported.

The House is set to vote on the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement this week, paving the way for a major policy victory for Trump even as Democrats seek his impeachment.

Last-minute issues

The trade deal hit a sudden roadblock this weekend when Mexican officials said they were surprised by language in the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement calling for U.S. officials to conduct labor law enforcement inspections in Mexico, a provision that Mexico said violated their sovereignty.

Jesús Seade, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister, raised the alarm over U.S plans to send five Labor Department attaches to Mexico to ensure compliance with the deal’s labor protections. Seade was mollified by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer Monday, who assured him with a letter that the diplomats would “not be ‘labor inspectors’ and will abide by all relevant Mexican laws.”

Instead, Mexican and American officials on a jointly appointed independent board can request inspections in any of the three countries in the agreement when “there are good faith questions about whether workers at a particular facility are being denied key labor rights.”

“But those verifications will be conducted by the independent panelists not by the labor attachés,” Lighthizer explained.

Mexico’s top trade official said that he was “absolutely” satisfied with Lighthizer’s promise, putting the deal back on track to passage. Mexico’s foreign ministry confirmed Monday that the government was told that no U.S. labor inspections were part of the agreement.

Vote this week

The last-minute dispute echoed negotiations that had stalled progress on the deal, as Democrats pushed for certain labor protections. Democrats reached a breakthrough with the White House last week — the same day that they unveiled articles of impeachment — after agreeing to endorse a revised version that included certain concessions, which won Democrats the support of major labor unions like the AFL-CIO.

Some Democrats have continued to express doubts about the deal’s enforcement provisions, particularly after Mexico complained about American inspectors, the Hill reported. But the bill is expected to pass Thursday, exactly one day after Democrats in the full House plan to officially impeach President Trump.

The bipartisan agreement on USMCA has made for a strange, split-screen spectacle as Democrats simultaneously negotiate with Trump and seek his removal from office.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) desires the deal’s passage at least as much as Trump, as she hopes to dispel perceptions that her party is too consumed with impeachment to get things done for the American people — but some progressives are worried that she is handing Trump a win for his re-election campaign, likely to be solidified by an acquittal of impeachment charges in the Senate.

The trade agreement seeks, among other things, to protect American workers from offshoring by revising the North America Free Trade agreement (NAFTA), which Trump has called the “worst deal” in the world for gutting American manufacturing.

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