MEXICO CITY/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Seeking to speed up U.S. ratification of a North American trade deal, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday vowed to implement union freedoms, higher wages and other labor rights ahead of a meeting with a delegation of U.S. lawmakers.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said Democratic lawmakers need to have confidence in a labor reform passed this year by Lopez Obrador’s left-leaning government.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal led a delegation of House Democrats that was to meet with Lopez Obrador, other officials and workers on Tuesday to hear more about Mexico’s labor situation.
“They want to know if the labor law will be implemented… of course we will comply with enforcing this law,” Lopez Obrador told his regular news conference.
“The reform is so that… workers can freely choose their representatives, and so there is union democracy and better wages for workers,” he said.
The USMCA trade deal, which would replace the trillion-dollar North American Free Trade Agreement, risks getting bogged down in the 2020 U.S. presidential election race if U.S. lawmakers do not ratify it soon.
Mexico’s Congress has already approved the deal. It also needs ratification from Canadian lawmakers.
Lopez Obrador called for ratification as soon as possible.
Top Republicans in the U.S. Congress and U.S. trade groups on Tuesday pressed lawmakers to approve the deal and not allow an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump to delay it.
Ann Wilson, chief lobbyist for the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, said industry had delayed key investments given continued uncertainty over the agreement a year after it was signed by the three countries’ leaders.
“We don’t have time to waste. We need to get it done,” she said.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Representative Kevin Brady, top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, urged Democrats to move quickly on the trade agreement.
“With election year politics upon us, time isn’t on our side. But the window of opportunity hasn’t closed yet. Democrats must act now,” they said in a joint statement.
Democrats say they are seeking better mechanisms in the trade agreement to ensure enforcement of labor and environmental provisions. One measure under consideration is providing aid to Mexico to beef up its enforcement of labor rules.
(Reporting by Anthony Esposito in Mexico City and Andrea Shalal in Washington, Additional reporting by Abraham Gonzalez; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon, Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Dan Grebler)