Editor’s note: Pelosi’s statement that the USMCA must be re-opened presents a major hurdle for USMCA passage.
Democrats’ concerns with U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement enforcement cannot be fixed in implementing legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Tuesday, suggesting that talks must be re-opened before NAFTA’s replacement can be passed by Congress.
[Brett Fortnam | April 2, 2019 | InsideTrade.com]
Officials from the U.S., Mexico and Canada have repeatedly said re-opening the deal is not an option. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has suggested Democrats’ concerns with the deal could be addressed in implementing legislation; Mexico’s chief NAFTA negotiator, Kenneth Smith Ramos, last week made a similar suggestion.
But in an interview with Politico, Pelosi said attempts to address enforcement issues raised by Democrats in a USMCA implementing bill would not be sufficient because the legislation would only have bearing on the U.S. and would not cover Mexico or Canada.
“We’re saying that enforcement has to be in the treaty, not in the implementing legislation,” she said. “Implementing legislation only bears on how we act. It doesn’t have to bear on how all three countries act.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Monday said he believed USMCA would have to be re-opened to address his union’s issues with the deal’s enforcement provisions.
USMCA enforcement is an overarching issue for Democrats, Pelosi said, while listing three more specific concerns: workers’ rights, pharmaceuticals, and the environment. “The concerns that our members have are workers’ rights, the environment and issues that relate to pharmaceuticals,” she said. “The overarching concern that we have is even if we have the best language in the world, if you don’t have enforcement you ain’t got nothing. It’s just the way it is.”
Workers’ rights is not an issue Pelosi expects to be resolved quickly, as Mexico must first pass labor reforms and prove those reforms have been properly implemented, she said. “We’ll have to see the evidence of what’s happening,” Pelosi said. “Not only that they pass the bill, but they implement the policy.”
The majority party in Mexico’s Congress is pushing to pass new labor legislation by the end of April. Mexico in the negotiations agreed to pass the legislation by the start of 2019.
The implementation of those reforms is a prerequisite for congressional consideration of USMCA but would not guarantee Democratic support for the deal, Pelosi added. “Now one of the things that the Mexico government has to do before we can even consider it is to pass legislation about workers’ rights in Mexico,” she said. “‘Unless’ doesn’t mean ‘if you do this, then we will support it.’ Unless you do this, we can’t even consider it. So don’t take ‘unless’ to mean ‘if you do this, we’ll do this’ because we have to see that they pass the legislation, that they have the factors in place that will make sure that it is implemented and that they demonstrate some commitment and sincerity because it’s a big issue how the labor, how the people — workers — are treated in Mexico.”
Congressional Republicans are hoping to pass USMCA before the August recess. Smith Ramos, who is now a private consultant, said the Mexican government is closely watching progress on USMCA ratification and could move to get its own implementing legislation passed this summer. — Brett Fortnam ([email protected])